Alexander Monson: Four Kenyan policemen jailed after being found guilty of his manslaughter

Four Kenyan policemen have been jailed after being found guilty of manslaughter over the death of a British aristocrat’s son who died in their custody in 2012.

Naftali Chege, Charles Wangombe Munyiri, Baraka Bulima and John Pamba were sentenced to a total of 48 years in prison on Monday for killing Alexander Monson, 28, at a police station in Mombasa almost a decade ago. 

Alexander, son of Nicholas the 12th Baron Monson, had been arrested in the early hours of May 19 for smoking cannabis while on a night out in the resort town of Diani.

He was in ‘good health’ as police took him away, but officers phoned his father later the same day to tell him that Alexander had died – ostensibly of a drug overdose.

That sparked a years-long fight by the Monsons to find out who was responsible for Alexander’s death and bring them to justice, which is now nearing its end.

Kenyan High Court judge Eric Ogola issued the guilty verdict at Mombasa court today, accusing police of a ‘cover-up’ of Alexander’s death.

‘I am grateful that after this long wait, justice has been done for my late son,’ the Alexander’s mother, Hilary Monson, told the court, fighting back tears.

‘This should send a strong message to the Kenyan police force to have respect for human life.’

Alexander Monson

Alexander Monson, 28, died while in police custody in Kenya in 2012 of what officers said was a drug overdose – before an inquest ruled he was beaten to death

Alexander's mother Hilary Monson was emotional as the four policemen were sentenced in Mobasa today

Alexander’s mother Hilary Monson was emotional as the four policemen were sentenced in Mobasa today

She was escorted to the high court with her husband John Lockhart as her long search for justice finally came to an end

She was escorted to the high court with her husband John Lockhart as her long search for justice finally came to an end

Four Kenyan police officers - Naftali Chege, Charles Wangombe Munyiri, Baraka Bulima and John Pamba - have now been found guilty of manslaughter over the death

Four Kenyan police officers – Naftali Chege, Charles Wangombe Munyiri, Baraka Bulima and John Pamba – have now been found guilty of manslaughter over the death

Alexander had been arrested for allegedly smoking cannabis at a beach-front restaurant on May 19, before dying in police custody

Alexander had been arrested for allegedly smoking cannabis at a beach-front restaurant on May 19, before dying in police custody

‘Drugs were planted on the deceased after his death as a cover up,’ said Judge Ogola, adding that Monson was in perfect health prior to his arrival at the station and that he was ‘brutally tortured’ while there. 

The police officers hung their heads after the verdict was announced while one cried quietly. 

Chege was sentenced to 15 years in jail, five of which were suspended. Munyiri was sentenced to 12 years, six of which were suspended. Buluma was sentenced to nine years, five of which were suspended, and Pamba was sentenced to 12 years, six of them suspended. 

Alexander, born to Baron Monson while he worked as a journalist for The Times in 1987, attended school at the elite Marlborough College and later won a scholarship to study at Chelsea Art College.

After graduation he decamped to Kenya, where sister Isabella was already making a living as an advertising copywriter.

His mother had given him some land where he planned to cultivate a commercial bamboo plantation, and he quickly made a group of local friends.

It was this friend group he was socialising with on the morning of May 19, 2012, at a beach-front property in Diani when he was arrested by police.

Dragged to a custody suite in Mombasa, Alexander died several hours later of what officers claimed was an overdose.

But father Nicholas refused to believe it, pushing for an inquest into the death which began in 2015 and concluded – three years later – that Alexander had died as a result of a beating.

Alexander had ‘severe bruising’ around his groin which suggested he had been kicked, while another blow to his head caused massive internal bleeding which proved fatal. 

Senior Principal Magistrate Richard Odenyo ruled: ‘His [Alexander’s] death was not natural, neither was it due to drugs.

Nicholas the 12th Baron Monson (left) and his former wife Hilary (right) have been locked in a years-long battle for justice, which is now nearing its end

Nicholas the 12th Baron Monson (left) and his former wife Hilary (right) have been locked in a years-long battle for justice, which is now nearing its end

Alexander (pictured right with mother Hilary and sister Isabella in 2007) had attended elite Marlborough College and Chelsea art college before moving to Kenya to start a bamboo farm

Alexander (pictured right with mother Hilary and sister Isabella in 2007) had attended elite Marlborough College and Chelsea art college before moving to Kenya to start a bamboo farm

‘His life was cut short by police and therefore, the director of public prosecution should prosecute the officers mentioned.’ 

His father 12th Baron Monson was in the court room on Monday and nodded slowly as the verdicts were announced. 

In January 2019 the officers were put on trial for murder. But the trial was adjourned in March last year at the end of the prosecution case.

Daniel Wamosta, lawyer for the police officers called for the case to be struck out claiming there was no case to answer against them.

Mrs Wamosta told the court: ‘It is our humble submission that the prosecution has not established a case for the accused to answer the murder charge.’

However, in March this year a judge ruled the trial will continue and the officers must present a defence. They were found guilty on November 15. It is unclear if any of the four will appeal. 

Kenyan police face frequent accusations of brutality and extrajudicial killings from civilians and rights groups, but officers are rarely charged and almost never convicted.

The Independent Policing Oversight Authority was established in 2011 to investigate police misconduct and has received millions of dollars in foreign funding. Kenyans have filed thousands of complaints against police since its creation, but the organization has only secured 13 convictions against officers.

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