The motorcyclist who slammed into Alisa Kefford Parker’s stationary car was travelling at high speed on an unroadworthy bike. His headlight was not switched on that evening and he was not wearing a helmet or high-visibility jacket, as required by law. These facts are agreed or conceded by the police who handled the case.
As Nicholas Musau Niger lay unconscious but still breathing on the road, he smelt of alcohol, according to the “only eyewitness” to the accident, Ms Kefford Parker’s partner, Alasdair Baker. A former Royal Marines officer and trained combat medic, Mr Baker had been following Ms Kefford Parker in another car. At his side was their then six-year-old daughter Darcy, who by now was howling.
After tending to Mr Niger, Mr Baker inspected his mangled bike. Its brake had been held together with elastic bands and its speedometer was frozen at 90km/h. It was a 50km/h zone. All of this happened not in Australia but in Nairobi, Kenya, at 6.20pm on January 16 last year. The next day, police charged Ms Kefford Parker with driving in a dangerous manner causing Mr Niger’s death, an offence punishable by 10 years’ jail, although they had not investigated the accident.
They had rejected Mr Baker’s repeated attempts to give them a statement and declined Ms Kefford Parker’s request to take a blood test. They did not test Mr Niger’s blood.
Ms Kefford Parker spent the next four days behind bars. She spent another week in jail six months later, when she contracted malaria and tick fever. Her passport confiscated, she was trapped in Kenya for almost 20 months, unable to work, Darcy unable to attend school, the family’s financial and emotional resources sapped.
She resisted extortion demands from Mr Niger’s family. She made more than 50 court appearances. Finally her bail conditions were changed in late August this year so she could leave Kenya, but then she was told her passport had been “lost”. It could be found, she was advised, for $US6000 ($8350). The price soon dropped to $US2000 but she didn’t pay the bribe. Instead, the Australian high commission arranged emergency travel documents.
Fairfax Media, alerted to her predicament by another party, first contacted Ms Kefford Parker in early August when she was still trapped in Kenya. She did not want publicity, fearing it would make matters worse.Now she believes talking might be her only hope of achieving some justice.
The dual Australian-British citizen returned to Melbourne last month – with pneumonia – to be with her mother and terminally ill father. She advised the Kenyan court that she was too sick to make an appearance in late September. She has learnt since that a warrant has been issued for her arrest in Kenya. “It is tragic that this young man lost his life,” Ms Kefford Parker said while in Sydney this week. “His death has affected me and my family deeply. The authorities must understand, however, that this accident was not my fault and it is not right that I am being punished for it.”
She and Darcy had been in the final days of a two-week visit to Kenya, where Mr Baker was working in security, when the accident happened. She had borrowed a Subaru Forester to take Darcy to an elephant sanctuary. Mr Baker met them there after work and Darcy chose to travel home with her dad.
It was approaching dusk when, ahead of them, Ms Kefford Parker began to turn right at a T-intersection. Here she was required to give way to traffic oncoming from the left. There was none when she commenced the turn.
A pedestrian stepped into her path, forcing her to stop mid-turn. As he moved off the road, she saw a dark flash to her left. It was Mr Niger’s motorcycle, emerging at high speed from a dip in the road. He ploughed into the Forester with such force that he was catapulted from the bike. His uncovered head shattered her windscreen before he sailed over the car and landed on the road.
There were no skid marks on the road to suggest Mr Niger attempted to brake.
The defence has argued Mr Niger – apparently unlicensed and uninsured – was culpable; that the initial police accounts made it clear he was to blame. But one officer involved testified that his superiors had insisted Ms Kefford Parker be charged. Whenever someone was killed in a road accident, he said, it was a matter of policy to charge the other driver.
Kenya’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Chief Justice and Attorney-General have not responded to Fairfax Media’s questions. Should the charge be dropped? How does it reflect on Kenya’s justice system?
Ms Kefford Parker is fearful to return to England to be with Mr Baker at their family home in Devon. Australia does not have an extradition treaty with Kenya, but Britain does.
“I’ve advised her to be extremely cautious,” said Philip Ruddock, the former attorney-general and immigration minister, who has maintained regular contact with Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop about the case. “It’s worried me enormously,” he said, “that there appears to have been an attempt to exploit a Westerner in a difficult situation to obtain funds. “You don’t expect to be involved in a tragedy like this. Suddenly somebody drives into you and you’re accused of manslaughter.”
He added: “It’s important that Australians travelling overseas realise that the rule of law in some jurisdictions is not as sound as we would expect, and you can be at the will and the whim of people who do not see things as we do.”
Before her ordeal, Ms Kefford Parker had been developing a business in England to promote safari tours to Kenya.
“I love Kenya,” she said. But no longer, in all conscience, can she encourage others to travel there.