Man freed from jail in Kenya after being convicted with Met officer’s ‘hearsay’ evidence

Ali Kololo  (Reprieve)
Ali Kololo (Reprieve)

A man has been freed from jail in Kenya after 11 years after being convicted with “hearsay” testimony from a senior Met detective in a case linked to the murder of a British tourist.

Ali Kololo was granted bail on Friday at the Kenyan High Court after an appeal over his conviction for kidnap and robbery with violence linked to the killing of tourist David Tebbutt in 2011. The charges initially carried a death sentence.

Separately on Wednesday, the British police watchdog the IOPC said the officer - who it chose not to name - would have faced gross misconduct charges were he not retired, because he also allegedly omitted forensic evidence. This evidence was not included in his statement to the court.

Mr Kololo was accused of being part of a gang of Somalian pirates who murdered Mr Tebbutt at a safari resort and kidnapped his wife Judith.

The conviction is expected to be formally overturned in April after a campaign by charity Reprieve. This is in part because former Met Det Ch Insp Neil Hibberd, a witness at Mr Kololo’s trial, advanced “hearsay evidence” which linked Mr Kololo to the crime without saying where it came from.

In a ‘notice of concession’ filed in Kenyan court, the Director of Public Prosecutions said that ‘tanga’ shoe evidence linking Mr Kololo to the scene of the crime was “based on hearsay testimony”.

The document states among the “purely hearsay evidence” around the shoes was that Hibberd did “not state the source of his information regarding the arrest and Tanga shoes”.

The IOPC said there was an “insufficient basis” to refer the case to prosecutors over the separate alleged ommission of forensic evidence.

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

IOPC Director of Major Investigations Steve Noonan said: “A key part of the evidence against Mr Kololo during his trial in 2013 was distinctive footwear he was allegedly wearing, which was used to link him to the scene.

“Conceding the appeal, the court decided that the conviction had been based on hearsay evidence about him wearing the shoes, which had been presented to the court without disclosure of where the information came from.

“However, our investigation looked at forensic evidence in relation to the footwear which was not included in the statement the officer gave to the court.

“The former officer chose not to answer questions about this omission, or provide an explanation, when interviewed under criminal caution during our investigation.

“It was our view that he would have had a case to answer for gross misconduct had he still been serving but only a disciplinary panel could have decided whether the matter was proven or not.”

Mr Hibberd’s lawyer has previously told the BBC he absolutely disagrees with the IOPC’s findings.

David Tebbutt and his wife Judith had been staying at a secluded resort in Kenya when they came under attack.

Mr Tebbutt was murdered while Judith was held hostage in Somalia until being released six months later under a ransom deal negotiated by her son, Olly. Ms Tebbutt has said she believes Ali Kololo is innocent.

The IOPC’s probe investigated the officer’s work on the case in England between 2011 and 2013.

The investigation, completed in February 2021 also examined whether the officer had exceeded his remit while working in Kenya, and if he had provided misleading evidence to the court.

The watchdog said it had provided evidence from that part of the investigation to the Met Police because it had no jurisdiction over the actions of police officers operating outside England and Wales.

A Met Police spokesperson said: “We are aware of the decision by the Director of Public Prosecution in Kenya not to contest an appeal made by Mr Ali Kololo against his conviction in Kenya for the 2011 kidnap and murder of David Tebbutt and the kidnap of Mrs Judith Tebbutt, which we understand will result in Mr Kololo’s conviction being quashed.

“Our thoughts are with Mr Kololo, Mrs Tebbutt, her family and all those who have been affected by this terrible crime. The Metropolitan Police remains committed to supporting the Kenyan authorities in any way that may be possible, in order to get justice for Mrs Tebbutt and her late husband.”

It said it did not have powers to bring a misconduct hearing against the former officer, because he left before December 2017.

“We recognise and understand that this may be frustrating for all concerned that this matter has not been fully resolved,” said a spokesperson.