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COURT BLAMES FOUL PLAY, NOT ANIMALS, FOR DEATH

SHARE COURT BLAMES FOUL PLAY, NOT ANIMALS, FOR DEATH

A British tourist whose charred bones were found in a game park was murdered, a court ruled Friday, vindicating her father's yearlong battle against state investigators who claimed wild animals had killed her.

The death of Julie Ward remains unsolved, however, with no one arrested and the judge saying he saw no need for further investigation. Julie Ward's father has charged there was an official cover-up to protect Kenya's lucrative tourism industry.Julie Ward's partly charred lower left leg and lower jaw were found on Sept. 13, 1988, in the sprawling Masai Mara Game Reserve, a week after she reportedly left the world-renowned park while on a wildlife photography expedition.

The state claimed the 28-year-old woman was eaten by carnivores after abandoning her vehicle mired in mud. The Masai Mara is home to lions, vultures, hyenas and leopards among other meat eaters.

Her father, John Ward, a hotelier from Suffolk, England, contended she was murdered, hacked up and burned with gasoline. He pleaded with the state to order an inquest and spent tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in a private investigation of her death.

"There is ample and substantial evidence that Julie Ward died of foul play by a person or persons unknown," Chief Magistrate Joseph Mango said at the conclusion of his inquiry.

In rejecting the state's contention that Julie Ward had been killed by animals, Mango said, "I think the animals are innocent. If they are guilty at all, it is in eating what they found."

However, he said he "saw no reason" to investigate her death further and rejected claims by her family that the state had engaged in a cover-up to protect her killer or Kenya's $360 million annual tourist trade.

During the inquest, John Ward's attorney, Byron Georgiadis, had tried to build a case that Julie Ward was killed by someone who knew the game park.

After the ruling, John Ward said he was surprised at the outcome and that he had had "very serious doubts" Mango would rule in his favor. He called the ruling a "credit" to Kenya.

Ward repeated his belief there had been a cover-up and referred to a British pathologist's report accepted by Mango as accurate that proved his daughter had been hacked to pieces by a sharp instrument and not torn apart by animals.