A PERSONAL ANECDOTE:Poachers and One Peter Beard

I must share a small but profound encounter which took place over 50 years ago with a world-renowned person – one Peter Beard, now deceased. Something to do with poachers.

Poachers provoke me.  I was called a poacher by non other than one of my pupils – now a Senior Lecturer at Griffith University in Australia – when he called me in a congratulatory message – “Poacher turned gamekeeper” – My crime; I was instrumental in the demise of Kenya Anti Corruption Authority (KACA) only to become a decade later an Assistant Director of Kenya Anti Corruption Commission (albeit only to survive for just over a year !).

Back to Peter Beard.  Read about this super American.  He died in somewhat dubious circumstances.  He was a talented world-renowned photographer, conservationist, philanthropist, unashamedly promiscuous and rich and more often than not a little eccentric and indiscreet.

He ‘discovered’ and made many an African lady super models.  Sarah Elderkin wrote about him in ‘The Star’ in an interesting article titled “A hunk who was at home in the wilds of Kenya”.

And those in the field of law must read about his exploits in Kenya, the Kenyan justice systems and prison in a reported case.  Beard and Another vs Republic [1970] E.A, Page 480.

He and his co-accused were sentenced by late Justice Nyarangi, then a Resident Magistrate, to 18 months in prison with 12 strokes of the cane for the offences of assault causing bodily harm and wrongful confinement.

 My hazy recollection is that the “New York Times” headlined his conviction and sentence thus “American to be flogged in Africa” or words to that effect.  His Appeal was upheld by Justice Mwendwa and Justice Wicks only on sentence and he and Kamande his employee and ex- employee of Karen Blixen fined.

The brief facts of the case were:

Peter Beard owned fifty acres of land in Langata/ Karen area where he used his land for activities relating to game conservation and he had reason to believe that poaching was taking place on his land. On finding 32 wire snares and a dead rare suni on his land, Peter purposed to combat the poaching. The employee secretively hid near the place the dead suni had been found and a neighbor’s employee arrived, crouched down and proceeded to set the snare from which the dead rare suni had been taken.

On the complainant being approached, he became aggressive and ran off. Peter Beard went to the neighbours camp where the employee identified the complainant from amongst Mr. Cowie’s employees as being the poacher. The complainant admitted to the offence but about few feet away from the place where the suni had been snared, he retracted his confession. The appellants decided to detain the complainant by tying him, gagging him secured to a tree and then took photographs of the scene. His intention was to scare of the complainant.

The appellants were convicted of assault causing actual bodily harm and wrongful confinement and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment and 12 strokes of the cane. The magistrate also recommended the deportation of the first appellant.

And how did I know him?  I was a young articled clerk with the firm of Archer & Wilcock and my Master was Colonel Richard Donald Croft Wilcock, who ably defended Peter Beard with me carrying the brief case, and huge books authored by Peter Beard.  I looked up a lot of law too!  My only criminal case in my pupillage stint!!

Peter was one who knew how to thank.  From Kamiti Prison he wrote to me on an envelope dated 7th January 1970, just before his release on appeal.

“                                                       Jan 7,1970

2   Pravin (Bowry)

I really appreciated, beyond words, your fantastic

 efforts on my behalf throughout this poacher- shauri,

 and I will never forget this help when so needed!   


Peter (Beard)”

And enclosed as a thank you token, a note of Kshs. 20/= for me.  A lot of money then when I and the likes of Paul Muite, Retired Justice G.B.M. Kariuki and the late Justice Aganyanya were given a monthly pocket money of Kshs. 45/= at the Kenya School of Law.

I have preserved that note, at the behest of my Master who rightly wrote to me that the note will be of great value and interest one day.

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