The only man convicted in connection with the murder of a Haverhill man in Kenya almost three years ago could walk free if a legal challenge by a human rights charity succeeds.
Reprieve, supported by law firm Leigh Day, are seeking a judicial review of British involvement in the trial and conviction of Ali Babitu Kololo for his part in the fatal shooting of 58-year-old David Tebbutt in September 2011.
Mr Tebbutt, who grew up in Haverhill but lived in Bishops Stortford at the time of this death, had been staying with his wife Judith in the luxury Kiwayu Safari Village in Kenya’s northern coast, close to its border with Somalia, when he died of a single shot to the chest.
A group of armed Somali pirates had broken into their lodge and shot Mr Tebbutt before taking Mrs Tebbutt hostage.
She was only freed six months later after a hefty ransom, believed to have been £800,000, was paid to the kidnappers.
She never even knew her husband was dead until two weeks into her captivity.
Mr Tebbutt had grown up in Wratting Road, Haverhill and attended Cangle School.
He left Haverhill to go to university and although he never returned to live in the town again he regularly visited his father Stan at the family home until his death in about 2006.
His younger brother Paul lives in Kedington, but declined to comment on Reprieve’s decision to seek a judicial review.
Mr Kololo, former groundsman at the lodge, was convicted in August 2013 with the help of evidence gathered by Met Police detectives, with support from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), of assisting the pirates.
He was convicted of committing robbery with violence, a crime which carries the death penalty in Kenya - although the country has not executed anyone since 1987.
Reprieve argues that the Government offered its support in the case after mistakenly believing the offence of robbery with violence carried a discretionary death sentence in Kenya when in fact it is a mandatory sentence.
Reprieve also believes Mr Kololo, who has always claimed he was only involved because the pirates forced him at gunpoint to guide them to the Tebbutt’s lodge, was tortured by local police into confessing to his crime.
The central point to Reprieve’s request for a judicial review is that the Government’s own guidelines prohibit support for public prosecutors in countries where there is a high risk of receiving a death sentence.
Maya Foa, head of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “Despite the government’s protestations, the fact remains that UK officials willingly assisted the Kenyan prosecution in sending a man to his death, based on a confession extracted under torture.
“Ignorance is not a defence, and the government should have known better than to assist the prosecution in a country where the death penalty is a mandatory punishment for the alleged offence and police torture is common. “There are strong indications that Ali Kololo is innocent of this crime.
“If the UK government is serious about its commitment to promoting justice overseas, it must right the wrongs and ensure real justice is done.”
The FCO failed to comment before the Echo went to print.