Conservationist Stutchbury had been living in fear of her life

Joanna Stutchbury

Investigators at the scene in Thindigua, Kiambu, where conservationist Joanna Stutchbury was shot dead on July 15, 2021. 

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

Conservationist Joannah Stutchbury, who was assassinated on Thursday evening, had been living in fear of her life and had expressed her concerns openly to colleagues.

This was revealed by her fellow environmentalists who visited her residence in Mushroom Garden Estate in Kiambu Friday morning after her gangland style execution at her drive-way barely 150 metres from her home.

Kiambu County Directorate of Criminal Investigations officer Samson Kiptum said they had recovered spent cartridges at the scene of the crime.

“She (Ms Stutchbury) was driving back home from lunch when she saw a branch of a tree blocking the way to her home. She alighted to remove it and was shot twice in the head in the process by unknown attackers. We are here to establish the motive of the murder,” he said.

Conservationist Joanna Stutchbury.

Photo credit: Pool

The cold murder drew the attention of President Uhuru Kenyatta who condemned it and ordered security agencies to track down the perpetrators of the act. President Kenyatta said he greatly appreciated Ms Stutchbury’s contribution in conserving the environment, especially her efforts to conserve Kiambu Forest.

“It is very sad, unfortunate and regrettable that bad people have senselessly taken away the life of Joannah Stutchbury in such a senseless manner,” President Uhuru said.

The conservationist hit the headlines in February 2018 when she single-handedly confronted developers who were felling trees in Kiambu Forest. One of the most prolific pictures captured during her fight with the crew showed her sitting in one of the excavators’ buckets as she swore to protect the wetland from destruction.

For the next three years, Ms Stutchbury was threatened several times. At one point, she was visited by unknown people who told her they would kill her if she continued disrupting their plans to construct an access road through the forest, a source told the Nation.

Kamau Thuo, a former Karura MCA, who is the current chief executive of the Green Walk Kenya, shares this line of thought, too.

For the past three years, Ms Stutchbury had collaborated with GreenWalk and other pro-green environmental lobby groups to push for the conservation of the water catchment area.

“Joanna noticed there were people destroying the forest in 2018 and confronted them. She reached out to us environmentalists.

“Since then, we started making a lot of noise because the people behind the grabbing of the protected land are powerful. They are the ones who used to threaten her,” Mr Thuo said.

Not one to fold under pressure, the passionate environmentalist approached the Kenya Forest Service and informed them of the ongoing destruction at Kiambu Forest. The KFS responded quickly, visited the scene, stopped the clearing and even posted rangers to guard the wetland.

The bubbly Briton died before making her dream of forming the Kiambu Forest Community Association come to life. It was one of her latest joint projects with Greenwalk-Kenya.

“In her honour, we are going to ensure that the community forest association is formed and speedily at that,” the former MCA told the Nation.

WildlifeDirect chief executive Paula Kahumbu expressed her disappointment in the State for failing to protect environmentalists in the country. She said Ms Stutchbury had informed their pro-green movements that her life was in danger and that she had reported the matter to the authorities.

She lamented how three conservationists — Joan Roots, Esmond Bradley-Martin and Joy Adamson — were murdered for defending the wildlife and how their cases are yet to be resolved years later.

She revealed that she had recently met Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala to discuss how the Ministry would embrace conservationists and offer them a safe haven as most of them lived in constant fear of being injured or killed.


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