A KENYAN court has charged a man with the murder of a British holidaymaker and the kidnap of his wife while staying in a luxury beach resort in the east African country.
But Ali Babitu Kololo denied the accusations that he murdered David Tebbutt and worked with gunmen to abduct his wife Judith – now believed to be held in Somalia – in the early hours of September 11.
“My client is innocent until proven guilty, and I pray to this court that my client be given bail,” Kololo’s lawyer, George Wakohiu, said today.
The Tebbutts, from the town of Bishop’s Stortford in southeastern England, were the only guests at the Kiwayu Safari Village, which is just 40 kilometres from the Somali border.
Local residents said Kololo, who was also charged with robbery with violence, had worked as a night watchman at the remote resort, and was forced by the gunmen to show them where the tourists were staying.
They argue he was used by the armed gang and was not part of the main group, pointing out that he was arrested after he volunteered himself to the police shortly after the attack.
“It was a case of mistaken identity and my client is innocent. Let this court consider my client’s pleas of innocence,” the lawyer added.
The court denied Kololo bail and he is due to reappear for a hearing on October 25.
A second man is being held by police and is expected to appear before the court later this week.
On Sunday, residents of Somalia’s north-central town of Harardhere said Judith Tebbutt had been brought to a nearby Islamist-controlled village.
“We are getting information indicating that a female Western hostage was brought close to Amara village,” Mohamed Isa said.
The Islamist Shabab rebels who control much of southern Somalia last week declined to comment on the kidnap.
The militiamen last year took control of Harardhere, once a notorious pirate hideout, and vowed to end piracy.
British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday pledged to do everything possible to help find the abducted woman.
Somali gunmen have in the past crossed into Kenya and kidnapped foreigners. Three aid workers were abducted in 2009 and two Western nuns were seized the previous year.
A Briton kidnapped in southern Somalia in 2008, environmental researcher Murray Watson, is still missing.
Somalia has been lawless for two decades after plunging into a bloody civil war with the 1991 ouster of president Mohamed Siad Barre.
Somali pirates frequently seize crew from merchant ships and pleasure craft in the dangerous waters off the conflict-ravaged Horn of Africa and have taken millions of dollars in ransom for their release.
According to the monitoring group Ecoterra, at least 49 vessels and 504 hostages are being held by Somali pirates, despite constant patrols by warships from several world powers.