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Mining leader denies killing Scots geologist after gem row

AN African community leader has claimed he had a good relationship with a Scottish geologist he is accused of murdering and was at his ranch three miles away when he died.

DIED: Campbell Bridges.
DIED: Campbell Bridges.

Campbell Bridges, 71, an internationally renowned expert and gemstone miner, was allegedly beaten and stabbed to death by seven men in southern Kenya in August 2009.

Co-accused Alfred Njuruka Makoko, who denies involvement, told his trial in Mombassa how he met Mr Bridges at a meeting aimed at smoothing over a dispute with the community over mining rights.

Mr Bridges is thought to have been involved in the row with local miners over digging for gems on his family's near-1500 acre concession.

Mr Makoko, who is chairman of a co-operative society, claimed other members had a "problem" with Mr Bridges, but not him.

He told the court: "I even attended a peace meeting between Bridges and the villagers in 2009 which was convened by the former (Kenyan) Environment Minister ... to resolve the mining dispute."

"I had my own mining site at Mkuki ranch six kilometres (three miles) from Kibanga ranch (Mr Bridges' concession), which I have been licensed to prospect.

"I had no problem with Bridges. It is true small traders are the ones who had problems with Bridges."

Mr Makoko also denied being among a number of small traders who laid an ambush for Mr Bridges on his ranch for seven hours before he turned up when they confronted him with knives, spears and clubs late on August 11 2009 near the town of Voi.

Mr Makoko, cross-examined by defence lawyer Steven Kithi Ngombo, said that on the fateful day when Mr Bridges was murdered he was in his farm three miles away.

His co-accused, Mohamed Dadi Kokane, Samuel Mwachala Mwaghania, James Chacha Mwita, Daniel Mdachi Mnene Suleiman, Osman Abdi Hussein and Crispus Mkunguzi Mnoko, all deny being involved in the murder.

Mr Kokane denied he was among those who were seen at the murder scene.

He said: "I have never been to Mwatate, where the incident took place. I was herding my boss's 700 cattle at Maungu, which is far apart from Mwasui Ranch."

Mr Kokane said his arrest as he returned from a mosque left him shocked because he had no knowledge of any murder he had committed.

He complained that when the police arrested him they did not inform his of any offence until he was brought to court after a week while in police custody.

Mr Kokane, who is also being represented by lawyer Steve Kithi Ngombo, said that at no time while being held was a parade done for him to be identified by the accuser.

He denied claims that the police who saw him at the scene knew him and there was no need of being paraded for identification by the accusers.

Among those who have testified are Mr Bridges' widow, Judith, also a geologist, who was in the court with family members.

Mr Bridges, who was born in London to a Scots mother and an English father, travelled to Africa in the 1960s to explore for rare gems.

He had mined in the area since 1967, worked for the Central Mining and Investment Corporation and was given credit for discovering tsavoite. The brilliant dark green gemstone was found in the 1960s on the border with Tanzania, reputedly when he landed in a gully after being chased by a buffalo.

The trial continues.

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