Kenyan man sentenced to death over Briton kidnap could be freed
A penniless Kenyan farmer sentenced to death over the kidnap of a British holidaymaker by Somali pirates will on Thursday take the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to court over an alleged illegal conviction.
The High Court in London is expected to hear how Ali Babitu Kololo claims Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and police officers under his command have refused to hand over documents that could help his appeal.
A Kenyan court found Kololo guilty of robbery with violence over the kidnap of Judith Tebbutt from her luxury Kenyan beachside lodge in September 2011, and the murder of her husband David, 58, as he fought to save his wife.
Mrs Tebbutt, 60, from Bishop’s Stortford, Herts, was sold to a notorious pirate gang and held hostage in rural Somalia for more than six months before being released.
Kololo is the only person so far prosecuted in connection with the attack. He intends to appeal because Scotland Yard officers gave evidence against him, which breaks British directives on its opposition to capital punishment.
Police said he was in on the plan and led the five Somali gunmen who kidnapped Mrs Tebbutt directly to the couple’s beachfront room. Kololo says he was walking home from his fields late that evening when he was accosted and ordered at gunpoint to show the gang the way to the hotel.
Reprieve has argued that Kololo did not receive a fair trial, because he had no lawyer for most hearings, and no interpreter was provided to help him understand proceedings.
He was also forced to cross-examine witnesses on his own, including the prosecution’s star witness, DCI Neil Hibberd of Scotland Yard, whose evidence the trial judge said was “central” to convicting Kololo.
That would be contravention of the capital punishment directives. Kololo’s charge of robbery with violence carries a mandatory death sentence in Kenya, although the country has imposed a moratorium on executions since 1987.
Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe is named as the defendant and Kololo the claimant in the action scheduled at the High Court on Thursday.
It is being taken under the Data Protection Act, which Kololo’s lawyers argue Scotland Yard has breached by refusing to hand over the information it holds on the Kenyan, which he is lawfully entitled to see.
“The Metropolitan Police has refused to provide our client with access to the data it holds about him, [which] may well contain material that shows his conviction is not safe and that his death sentence should be overturned,” said Rosa Curling of Leigh Day, the London law firm acting for Kololo on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis.
“The police’s refusal is not only unlawful and breaches our client’s rights under the Data Protection Act, it also fundamentally undermines the…Government’s policy on the death penalty.”
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said it was not policy to comment on active legal proceedings before they reached judgment.