Richard Alden, a British businessman accused of murdering a Kenyan woman in his own home, has revealed how he escaped a life sentence in one of Africa’s more notorious jails by enlisting the services of a world-famous private investigator to prove his innocence.
The 54 year-old father of three, flew out of Nairobi last Saturday after an 18-month ordeal which included a 63-day stint incarcerated in a prison block for alleged killers.
Speaking to The Sunday Times, Mr Alden said: “Initially it was a public witch-hunt. I was going to be the sacrificial lamb. Somebody’s died; there’s been a gunshot and the person who has supposedly perpetrated it is a foreigner and not only that, he is supposedly a very wealthy foreigner.
“There is a feeling in Kenya 54 years after independence that white people and wealthy people get away with things,” he added.
His decision to hire private investigator Jeffrey Katz, the private investigator who probed the death of the Vatican banker Roberto Calvi whose body was found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London in 1982, proved to be crucial in proving his innocence.
The distressing situation Alden found himself in was made worse due to false accounts that he was having an affair with the deceased, 42-year-old Grace Wangechi Kinyanjui.
His ordeal began on Saturday June 4 last year when he was clearing out a house he and his family had rented in the suburb of Karen in Nairobi. He had asked local woman Kinyanjui, who he and his wife knew through a shared interest in marathon running, to help because his wife and children had already left the country some months earlier at the end of his contract.
Around 1pm he was in his bedroom sorting through paperwork he had taken from the safe in the adjoining dressing room when he heard a shot. Rushing back into the dressing room — as witnessed by the housekeeper — he found Kinyanjui lying on the floor seriously injured after a single shot from a Glock 17 handgun he kept in the safe.
After summoning security guards using a panic button, he called the police and used a towel in an attempt to staunch her bleeding. Alden, the housekeeper and two guards drove her to a nearby hospital where she was pronounced dead. He was later arrested and charged with her murder six days later.
In the months that followed, friends asked him why he had not fled to Tanzania, but he explained that as he had nothing to hide, he had no need to try to evade justice.
I had no expectation they were going to charge me with murder. Why would they? I was sitting there in hospital, sobbing my eyes out, my friend had just died and I was in shock.
False allegations claimed Kinyanjui was his lover, that she had been found with stab wounds and her body had been dragged to a car. He was judged to be at such a risk from vigilantes that the prosecution argued his safety could only be assured in jail and he should not initially be granted bail.
His wife even had to hire protection when she flew back to Nairobi to help him, but during her prison visits she developed a rapport with the jailers and reached out to the victim’s family.
The first time Kinyanjui’s mother, Anastasia, spoke to him she said: “I don’t believe that a person like you would murder anybody . . . but if you were going to do it, why on earth would you do it in broad daylight and then take my daughter to hospital?”
She later filed an affidavit with the public prosecutor saying her family believed it was an accident, not murder.
Alden spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on lawyers both in Kenya and in Britain, as well as hiring Katz, chief executive of Bishop Group, a corporate investigations firm.
Last weekend Katz said that Geoffrey Arnold, a former forensic firearms expert with the Metropolitan police, made the key breakthrough by working out that the bullet hit the floor and killed her on the rebound.
His report concluded it was all a tragic accident. Kinyanjui had picked up the Glock from the open safe, posed in front of the mirror and pulled back the trigger — it had gone off with fatal consequences.
On October 30 Kenyan prosecutors ruled that the case would not continue and Alden was free to go.
During their ordeal, the Alden family have grown close Kinyanjui’s extended family, celebrating Christmas with them last year at the Aldens’ holiday home in Nanyuki.
Despite everything that has happened, he still intends to visit Kenya and said: “I love the country, I love the people.”