Long running, multi-faceted action for Kenyan man sentenced to death sees him freed on bail pending appeal judgment

In 2013, Ali Babitu Kololo was sentenced to death in Kenya for his alleged involvement in the murder of David Tebbutt and the robbery and kidnap of his wife, Judith Tebbutt. The tragic, widely reported murder and robbery took place on the Kenyan coast close to Somalia. Mrs. Tebbutt was held hostage in Somalia and only freed after six months in captivity. A unit from SO15 of the Metropolitan Police was deployed to assist the Kenyan authorities with their investigation and an officer gave important evidence at Mr. Kololo’s trial.

Reprieve took up Mr. Kololo’s case and provided assistance to his Kenyan lawyers on appeal. From 2014, they were assisted by Tim Moloney KC. Subsequent Data Protection Act proceedings in London in 2015 secured important information from the Metropolitan Police which greatly assisted Mr. Kololo’s appeal. That material had not been disclosed in Mr. Kololo’s trial. The High Court in Kenya admitted the material as fresh evidence in the appeal and, in 2017, the Kenyan Court of Appeal refused an appeal by the Kenyan DPP against its decision to do so.

In 2017, Reprieve formulated a complaint to the IOPC about a Met officer’s conduct in the investigation and prosecution. Fiona Murphy of DSC and Kate Maynard of Hickman and Rose Solicitors joined Reprieve and Tim to provide their expert assistance in relation to that complaint. Following the complaint, a lengthy investigation managed by the IOPC and conducted by the National Crime Agency began in 2018. In June 2022, the IOPC concluded that if the officer was still serving, he would have had a case to answer for gross misconduct. The officer had retired with the rank of Detective Chief Superintendent in 2017.

On 20 February 2023, Mr. Kololo’s substantive appeal against his conviction in Kenya was finally heard. The Kenyan DPP conceded the appeal and the High Court will deliver its judgment on 27 April. On 24 February 2023, Mr. Kololo was admitted to bail pending that judgment

On 1 March 2023, the IOPC issued a statement on their role.

Director of Major Investigations, Steve Noonan, said:

“We provided our investigation report to facilitate preparations for the appeal following requests from Mr Kololo’s defence and the Kenyan authorities. A Kenyan court has now decided that Mr Kololo should be freed pending a judgment which is expected to formally quash his conviction.

“A key part of the evidence against Mr Kololo during his trial in 2013 was distinctive footwear he was allegedly wearing, which was used to link him to the scene….. However, our investigation looked at forensic evidence in relation to the footwear which was not included in the statement the officer gave to the court. The former officer chose not to answer questions about this omission, or provide an explanation, when interviewed under criminal caution during our investigation.”

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said:

“Our thoughts are with Mr Kololo, Mrs Tebbutt, her family and all those who have been affected by this terrible crime. The Metropolitan Police remains committed to supporting the Kenyan authorities in any way that may be possible, in order to get justice for Mrs Tebbutt and her late husband.”

Referring to the fact that no disciplinary proceedings could be instituted against the officer, the spokesperson said “We recognise and understand that this may be frustrating for all concerned that this matter has not been fully resolved,”

The officer’s lawyer told the BBC in 2022 that his client "absolutely disagrees with the [IOPC] findings"

Further coverage on the case can be read in The Evening StandardThe Times and the BBC

More information about the case is found on the Reprieve website.

Image courtesy: Reuters.