Celebrated Kenyan environmentalist shot dead amid dispute with developers cutting down forest

A prominent Kenyan environmentalist has been shot dead on her driveway amid a dispute with commercial developers who had been cutting down a forest that abutted her home. 

Joannah Stutchbury, 64, was driving down a dirt track to her home in Kiambu County, Nairobi when she found the entrance to her drive blocked by branches and trees, local residents tell The Telegraph.

As she exited the vehicle to remove the debris, the Kenyan national was shot four times by armed criminals who jumped out from hiding and then fled into the nearby Kiambu forest, residents say.

Ms Stutchbury, who was third generation Kenyan with British ancestry, had been living at the six-acre plot since the 1990s, after her family bought the property in 1982. Her grandfather was a co-founder of the Muthaiga Club, a well-known haunt from colonial days.

She was an environmentalist and activist who had been campaigning to stop commercial developers from destroying land in Kiambu forest, which sits at her back door.

According to her neighbours, who found Ms Stutchbury lying dead on the driveway, the killers had not taken any money or valuables from their victim. Her car was reportedly left running with the handbrake on.

This has led to speculation on social media that the assailants had been sent to kill Ms Stutchbury because of her efforts to conserve the forest. She was reportedly threatened at gunpoint by a developer earlier this year, according to local media reports.

Her murder follows the unsolved case of American conservationist, Esmond Bradley Martin, who was stabbed to death in his Nairobi home while investigating the illegal elephant and ivory trade in 2018.

President Uhuru Kenyatta condemned the killings and instructed the security agencies to track down the perpetrators, “We will not allow a few misguided individuals to continue shedding blood of innocent people working hard to make Kenya a better place for us all,” he said. He paid tribute to the late environmentalist who he called “a steadfast champion for the conservation of our environment.”

Ms Stutchbury is survived by her daughter and son, both in their late twenties.

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