Two man charged with robbery in relation to the death of popular Galway photographer Trent Keegan have been acquitted by a court in Nairobi, prompting fears in Mr Keegan’s family that his killers may never be brought to justice.
Mr Keegan’s badly beaten body was found in a ditch in the Kenyan capital last May. The New Zealand native had moved to Nairobi just three months previously, having spent a number of years living in Galway where he worked for numerous media companies, including the Galway Advertiser newspaper group.
Mr Keegan’s attackers stole his laptop and camera, but his wallet, which contained a substantial amount of cash, was left untouched. It is understood Muchiri Kariuki and Amos Kamau, the two men acquitted on charges of assaulting Mr Keegan with violence, were found to be in possession of his cellphone following the attack.
Two weeks before his death, the 33-year-old had been investigating allegations a US safari company had been mistreating Maasai people in neighbouring Tanzania. The company, Thomson Safaris, has denied the claims.
Keegan said he had been harassed by police and local authorities over the story and had sent computer files to friends for safe-keeping, fearing something might happen to him.
Evans Ondieki, defence lawyer for the two accused, said this week that the pair had been acquitted "for lack of evidence to link them to the robbery beyond reasonable doubt".
He criticised the police investigation and said Trent's death should have been treated as murder, rather than a robbery. Ondieki believed more could be done "to bring the culprits to book", adding he and his colleagues were planning a memorial service and procession on the first anniversary of his death near the spot where Trent's body was found.
Mr Keegan’s sister Nikki McKinnon told New Zealand newspapers this week that the men’s acquittal was upsetting, but not unexpected.
“If they are who we suspect they are and had a part in Trent’s death, then it’s absolutely wrong,” she said. “On the other hand, I don’t want anybody to be hung out just to appease us. It’s so hard to know what to do and how you can get justice.”
Mr Keegan (33 ) was a respected photojournalist who received several awards from the Irish Professional Photographers’ Association and had worked around the world in places such as Darfur, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and the slums of Mombasa.
Several friends in Africa had continued to follow the case through on behalf of the family. One, Brian MacCormaic, was concerned enough for his own safety to leave Nairobi..
Ms McKinnon said that Mr MacCormaic had been treated "pretty poorly'' when he tried to contact New Zealand's representatives in Pretoria, Ms McKinnon said.
Mr MacCormaic said this week that “it very much looks like the police in Nairobi and the New Zealand High Commission in Pretoria are not interested in putting any more effort into finding the true killers of Trent''.
Media colleagues of Trent held a memorial service and planted a tree in his honour at Salthill last summer.