Carl Tundo accuses Thomas Cholmondeley of trying to blame him for murder

The Times of London
Nairobi, Kenya

An acquaintance of Thomas Cholmondeley has accused the jailed aristocrat of trying to “stitch him up” for the shooting of a black poacher on his family’s Kenyan Rift Valley estate.

In an interview with The Times after Cholmondeley was sentenced to eight months in jail for manslaughter, Carl Tundo, who was with the Old Etonian on the day of the killing, spoke out for the first time since the trial began more than three years ago.

“Tom tried to stitch me up,” Mr Tundo said. “He never said it point blank, but what Tom tried to insinuate was that I was there, I was armed and it could have been me.”

Cholmondeley’s defence hinged on the claim that Mr Tundo may have fired the bullet that killed Robert Njoya, 37, in 2006. The death led to a murder charge for Cholmondeley, 40, the heir to Kenya’s most famous white settler family, the Delameres. “The first I heard of this story that I had a gun was when Tom took the stand. It blew me away,” said Mr Tundo, 34.

In his summing up, Judge Muga Apondi dismissed the defence as “an afterthought” while describing Mr Tundo’s evidence as “firm, steadfast [and] credible”. The heady mix of white aristocrats, poor blacks, guns, death and rampant inequality against the backdrop of Kenya’s Rift Valley has been enthralling. It has also divided the white Kenyan community, with everyone taking sides: people are either with Tom or with Flash, as Mr Tundo is known. “I’m sure for the rest of my life I’m going to get slated by some people,” Mr Tundo said. “I’ve already been lambasted and attacked in bars and at weddings by mad drunk women who are on Tom’s side.”

Everyone agrees that one May afternoon three years ago, the two men were walking together on the Delamere family estate. Everyone agrees that shots were fired and a black man, one of a gang of poachers, died. Agreement ends there.

Mr Tundo had stopped to urinate then hurried to catch up through the thick bush when he saw Cholmondeley drop to one knee and shoot.

Mr Tundo is 6ft 2ins and drives rally cars at 120 miles per hour down dirt roads in weekend competitions but he was not about to take on what he guessed must be a buffalo. “I legged it,” Mr Tundo said. “I was looking for a tree to climb. I thought, ‘Christ, I’ve got to get out of here’.”

Before he had gone far, Cholmondeley shouted: “Bring the car — I’ve shot someone by mistake.” According to Cholmondeley, at this point Mr Tundo reappeared with a handgun and fired it, wounding one of the hunting dogs and possibly killing Mr Njoya. “I’ve never had someone try to pin a murder on me before,” said Mr Tundo, who does not own a gun.

When Mr Tundo reached Cholmondeley, he said: “I found him over Njoya. The guy was very much alive, holding his arse where the bullet had hit him. Tom was tying a handkerchief around his leg.” Blood pumped from the wound as they loaded Mr Njoya into the back of the small 4×4 car. He died in hospital.

A year earlier, Kenya’s Attorney-General had dismissed a case in which Cholmondeley was accused of shooting dead an undercover park ranger on his land. As he raced down the track, Mr Tundo said he thought: “S**t — I’m in a situation with someone who has now shot another guy.”

At the police station, both gave their accounts. “Our statements were aligned to begin with,” said Mr Tundo, “and then his story changed a year down the line [during the trial].”

The trial of a white aristocrat who killed a black stonemason has highlighted the inequalities on which Kenyan society is built, and protests by Masais at Nairobi High Court on Thursday underlined the divisions.