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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

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Kidnap victim says Kenyan convicted for the case is ‘innocent’

A British woman kidnapped by Somali pirates believes the man convicted in connection with the case is innocent.

Jude Tebbutt and her husband David were attacked while on holiday in Kenya in 2011 – he was killed and she was held hostage in Somalia for six months. 

Kenyan Ali Babitu Kololo was convicted but Mrs Tebbutt has told the BBC she now believes he was made a scapegoat.

Mrs Tebbutt said she did not believe Kololo had been given a “fair trial”.

The BBC has also learned that a former Metropolitan Police officer is under investigation for his role in the case – and that investigation is examining whether he may have committed a crime.

Within a few days of the kidnap, a team of counter-terrorism detectives from the Metropolitan Police flew to Kenya to help with the investigation. 

In 2012, local man Kololo was convicted of robbery with violence in a Kenyan court and sentenced to death – later commuted to life imprisonment. Authorities in Kenya are not looking for any other suspects.

The head of the Met’s investigation team – Det Supt Neil Hibberd – was the prosecution’s key witness.

At the trial, Mrs Tebbutt did not recognise Kololo as one of the kidnap gang.

She said: “I thought that there’d be someone coming through that door that was a representation of either the two men who dragged me out of bed that night, the two men – one of whom, or both of them, murdered David, the men that were in the boat, the men that kept me for over six months. 

“But honestly… it wasn’t one of those men.”

Kololo was accused of leading the attackers to the bungalow they were staying in but she is concerned that there has been a miscarriage of justice.

Miscarriage of justice charity Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Kololo, states that he is illiterate, and was denied access to both a lawyer and a translator for most of the trial.

“Ali Kololo’s initial death sentence, following a highly flawed trial, may not have happened without the involvement of British authorities,” said Maya Foa, director of Reprieve.

Now Mr Hibberd is himself under investigation for possible criminal conduct and Mrs Tebbutt is supporting the appeal of the only man convicted of involvement in her husband’s murder.

“I think a wrong should be righted,” said Mrs Tebbutt. “And when I say wrong I mean the fact that Mr Kololo didn’t have a fair trial.

“I do want justice. But I don’t want justice at any cost… I don’t want anyone sentenced and put into prison and spend seven years of his life when there is any shadow of a doubt over it.”

In court proceedings, Kololo’s lawyers have claimed that Mr Hibberd – who has now retired – withheld forensic evidence that undermined the case against him.

They also claim he misled the court by giving selective evidence, and that he should not have taken part in a trial where the defendant faced the death penalty, and had been tortured. 

BBC News understands that Mr Hibberd will shortly be interviewed by the National Crime Agency, in an investigation overseen by the IOPC police watchdog.

In a letter seen by BBC News, the Metropolitan Police confirmed Mr Hibberd is being investigated to see if he may have committed a criminal offence or misconduct or gross misconduct. 

Mr Hibberd’s lawyers told the BBC that he intends to co-operate with the investigation.

Mrs Tebbutt admitted some people might think it was surprising that she was standing up for the man convicted for his role in her husband’s death but she said: “It is the right thing to do.” 

Mrs Tebbutt said her husband David was an honourable man and that “the honourable thing to do now is to hopefully get a fair trial”. 

She added: “That is the least Mr Kololo deserves.

“Mr Neil Hibberd said to me that if it was the last thing that he did he would find the murderer of David and the people responsible for abducting me – and I believed him. I really believed him.

“I think they have to take ownership of what they did back in 2011 – the team that helped to convict Mr Kololo – an innocent man.”

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