United Kingdom

Nine British soldiers face probe over 2012 stabbing of Kenyan mother found dead in hotel septic tank

Nine British soldiers are facing questions over the killing of a Kenyan mother who was found stabbed to death in a hotel septic tank in 2012 after a night of partying near an army base.

Agnes Wanjiru, 21, was found two months after her disappearance at the Lions Court Inn hotel in Nanyuki, leaving behind a five-month-old daughter.

Witnesses said the sex worker was seen at the hotel bar that night with a number of British soldiers and left arm-in-arm with one of them.

Her family is now demanding justice and claims her case has been overlooked in a bid to avoid a diplomatic row.

Nanyuki has an army base where, under an agreement with Kenya, the UK can send six infantry battalions a year for eight-week exercises.

As part of the agreement, Kenyan Defence Forces take part in the exercises with their British counterparts.

Agnes Wanjiru (pictured), 21, was found two months after her disappearance at the Lions Court Inn hotel in Nanyuki, leaving behind a five-month-old daughter

By the time her body was discovered, the British soldiers had returned home and rumours started about her death, one soldier told The Sunday Times. 

Kenyan police identified nine soldiers they wanted to question and asked the British Royal Military Police to interview them and take DNA samples.

But the Ministry of Defence said last week they never received any such request, causing the inquiry to stall.

A new investigation has been opened after an inquest which had been delayed by six years found Agnes was killed unlawfully.

The MoD said last week it is now helping Kenyan authorities 'to determine what support is needed'.  

Detectives from Kenya's FBI, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, visited Agnes' family this February, saying they are still focusing on the same nine suspects, who were they infantrymen, who had booked hotel rooms on the night of her disappearance but were never questioned.

Soldiers recalled it as a debauched evening of 'non-stop' sex with prostitutes for very little money, with a mass brawl taking place the night before between troops, and soldiers were made to get tested for HIV on their return to the UK.

Witnesses said the sex worker was seen at the hotel bar (pictured) that night with a number of British soldiers and left arm-in-arm with one of them

The former infantryman said: 'It was all night, ferrying women back and forth to the rooms, which were like these huts. You could do whatever you wanted.'

But when he returned to the UK he said rumours started, and he heard one soldier boasting about killing a prostitute in Nanyuki.

Agnes' sister Rose Wanyua Wanjiku, 48, said: 'Her case has been completely overlooked. From the first day we reported the case at the police station the police did nothing until her body was accidentally removed from a septic tank.'

She added that when detectives visited her earlier this year, they said they had the names of the nine suspects and would carry out the interviews even if they had to travel to the UK.

Confidential documents seen by The Sunday Times show four witnesses told the original Kenyan police investigation in 2012 that Agnes left the bar with a British soldier and went to his room.

One said they heard a 'fierce row' break out in the room, and the documents show Kenyan detectives asked the British military for DNA samples and to question the suspects, neither of which happened.

Nanyuki's local economy is hugely dependent on the British troops who carry out civil engineering projects and spend money in local businesses

Rose, who has since raised Agnes' daughter Stacy, says she believes authorities in both countries believe the death of a poor sex worker can be brushed aside.

She said: 'From the first day we reported the case at the police station, the police did nothing until her body was accidentally recovered.'

Two of the nine soldiers in the hotel on the night in question were tracked down by The Sunday Times, and denied their involvement in her death. 

Nanyuki is heavily dependent on the income from British soldiers based at the Nyati Barracks and sex work is very common.

Girls can earn a week's salary, around £30, for sleeping with a soldier, but others charge much less.

At the time, Agnes was trying to support her baby while living with her sister in a single room in the Majengo ghetto.  

A soldier says he remembers around 60 fellow military people dancing with around 40 local sex workers on the night of her disappearance.  

Nanyuki is heavily dependent on the income from British soldiers based at the Nyati Barracks and sex work is very common

A friend waited for Agnes until 3am but eventually went home after she didn't return. 

A night guard at the hotel said he had escorted Agnes and a soldier to his room and saw them enter, but they seemed to be getting on well and he was not concerned for her safety.

Her disappearance remained a mystery until two months later when the hotel general manager asked staff to investigate a smell in the building.

A maintenance manager opened a manhole and found a woman's body, naked except for a bra and necklace, lying in filth in a septic tank. 

A post mortem found she had been stabbed in her abdomen and chest and there were signs she was beaten, but it was not possible to determine if she had been sexually assaulted.  

A night porter added he heard a 'fierce fight' in the hotel room used by the soldier and Agnes, and believed there was more than one soldier in the room at the time. 

Hotel logs identified nine soldiers who had checked in that day, paying £13-£20 each, and they all checked out the next day. 

Two of the rooms were adjacent to the septic tank where the mother-of-one was found. 

Nanyuki has an army base where, under an agreement with Kenya, the UK can send six infantry battalions a year for eight-week exercises. Pictured: soldiers on exercise in Nanyuki

But forensics were hampered by the delay to the discovery of her body and the room she had been in had been repeatedly cleaned.  

A new inquiry has been launched and is said to be 'concerned' about the original investigation.   

It also poses difficult questions for Kenyan and British authorities, who recently agreed a £10milllion a year deal allowing 3,000 British troops to continue to train in Nanyuki. 

The local economy is hugely dependent on the British troops who carry out civil engineering projects and spend money in local businesses.   

An MoD spokesman said: 'In 2012, Special Investigation Branch carried out initial enquiries in Kenya, including providing information about British personnel to the Kenyan police. 

'No further requests for assistance were received.'Following the conclusion of a Kenyan inquest in 2019, we are aware that the Kenyan authorities are looking into this incident. 

'The jurisdiction for this investigation rests with the Kenyan police, and we are currently in discussions with the Kenyan authorities to determine what support is needed.

'Due to this being subject to an ongoing investigation it would be inappropriate to comment further.'

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