‘Her name was Agnes Wanjiru and we owe her a debt,’ says Labour MP Jess Phillips
Army bosses have been accused of covering up the murder of a 21-year-old sex worker who was allegedly killed by a soldier nearly 10 years ago.
Agnes Wanjiru’s body was found in a septic tank at the Lions Court Hotel, in Nanyuki, two months after she disappeared in March 2012. The town is a 10-minute car journey from the British Army Training Unit Kenya (Batuk) camp.
The Sunday Times said a fellow soldier had gone to the “proper people” immediately after hearing a squaddie confess to the killing, but said he was told to “shut up” when he reported it and no action was taken.
The soldier, who was identified only as “Soldier Y” by the paper, said: “I told the proper people. Everyone. All the lads, all the senior command that were there.
“I went to higher up, hierarchy, people that should have dealt with it. I got called a liar. They basically just said, ‘Shut up and get out.’”
The soldier from the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment said to be responsible has been named by his colleagues, the paper said – referring to the alleged killer only as “Soldier X”.
“Soldier Y” described being shown her body in the septic tank by the squaddie, saying: “He took me to the tank and lifted it up, and I looked in and I just remember seeing her in there.
“My heart sank. My mind just went blank. The only thing I could say to him was: ‘I’ll never forgive you for this’.”
Ms Wanjiru’s body was discovered two months later, after the squad had returned to the UK.
An initial inquiry into the death of Ms Wanjiru was unsuccessful, but a fresh investigation has been launched after an inquest delayed until 2019 found Ms Wanjiru was unlawfully killed, the Sunday Times reported last month.
Judge Njeri Thuku wrote at the end of the inquest she “formed the opinion that Agnes was murdered by British soldiers”.
The newspaper said “Soldier X” denied any involvement in the murder of Ms Wanjiru, whose post-mortem found she died as a result of stab wounds to her chest and abdomen.
There was also evidence she had been beaten, although due to the condition of her body it was unclear whether she had been sexually assaulted.
Witnesses told the Sunday Times Ms Wanjiru, a known sex worker, was last seen leaving the hotel’s bar with two British soldiers.
Labour’s shadow defence secretary John Healey accused his Tory opponent, Ben Wallace, of not taking the case “seriously” enough. “He should pledge the fullest co-operation to Kenyan detectives and launch an inquiry into any possible cover-up from commanding officers, military police or the MoD,” Mr Healy said of the secretary of state.
He continued: “The details of this young Kenyan woman’s death are dreadful, yet there’s still no action from defence ministers on reports of grave failings by the British military exposed in this case.
“When our forces serve overseas they stand up for British values and these allegations, if proven, would profoundly betray those values.”
Mr Healy finished by saying that, nine years on, “justice must now be done for Agnes and her family”.
Tweeting about the story, Labour MP Jess Phillips described it as a “tragic tale” and said it is one “will be pressing the defence secretary for answers about”.
“Her name was Agnes Wanjiru and we owe her a debt,” Ms Phillips added.
Ms Wanjiru — a hairdresser who had recently turned to sex work to provide for her five-month-old baby, Stacy — was last seen by witnesses on the evening of 31 March 2012.
Her body was found naked behind the rooms where soldiers had been staying, without some fingers and toes due to advanced decomposition. Ms Wanjiru had a 2cm stab wound to her lower right abdomen and a blunt force injury to her chest, the Sunday Times details. Her lungs had also collapsed.
An investigation into Ms Wanjiru’s death stalled when a request by Kenyan police in June 2012 to the British Royal Military Police (RMP) that nine soldiers be questioned is said to have gone missing.
Detectives allegedly asked the RMP to put 13 questions to the soldiers, including whether any of them had sex with Ms Wanjiru on the night she disappeared.
A photo of the victim was included in the request, as well as a request for DNA samples to be taken from the nine men.
The man who allegedly admitted to the killing was not among those nine, according to the Sunday Times.
“The jurisdiction for this investigation rests with the Kenyan Police, and we are currently in discussions with the Kenyan authorities to determine what support is needed,” an MoD spokesperson said.
“Due to this being subject to an ongoing investigation it would be inappropriate to comment further.”