A Death Retold In Truth And Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder (2015)

by Grace A. Musila 

(James Currey 2015)

Cover smallJulie Ann Ward was a British tourist and wildlife photographer who went missing in Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve in 1988 and was eventually found to have been murdered. Her death and the protracted search for her killers, still at large, were hotly contested in the media. Many theories emerged as to how and why she died, generating three trials, several ‘true crime’ books, and much speculation and rumour.

At the core of Grace A. Musila’s study are the following questions: why would this young woman’s death be the subject of such strong contestations of ideas and multiple truths? And what does this reveal about cultural productions of truth and knowledge in Kenya and Britain, particularly in the light of the responses to her disappearance of the Kenyan police, the British Foreign Office, and the British High Commission in Nairobi.

Building on existing scholarship on African history, narrative, gender and postcolonial studies, the author reveals how the Julie Ward murder and its attendant discourses o er insights into the journeys of ideas, and how these traverse the porous boundaries of the relationship between Kenya and Britain, and by extension, Africa and the Global North.


Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 1.55.48 AMAnnie Gagiano in Safundi 



“A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour is a mix of erudite critical analysis of the range of stories that emerged from the death of Julie Ward; examining the conduct and narratives of officialdom, the pain and search efforts of Julie’s father; the seeming unwillingness of the Kenyan state to fully support Mr Ward’s quest for truth and justice, as well as the British government’s no-too-convincing involvement, among others.”

–  ‘Of the dead, politics and truth in Julie Ward murder’ by Tom Ohdiambo

Grace Musila’s exploration of the 1988 Julie Ward murder in the Maasai Mara is a work of extraordinary sensitivity, intellectual power and pioneering range. From histories of assassination to the role of wildlife conservation in imagining whiteness, Musila reveals the wider, layered versions of historical truth and the cosy complicities of interest in the British and Kenyan political establishments. …By contrast, as Musila demonstrates, popular rumour and speculation expose the manipulation of formal legal ‘fact’. A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour is an exquisitely crafted, multi-dimensional and brilliant book that will reshape scholarship in postcolonial African Studies and the Environmental Humanities.

– Brendon Nicholls (University of Leeds, UK)

Grace Musila eruditely and convincingly demonstrates the continuities
and tensions between ideas of modernity and how these are understood and practised in postcolonial Kenya and Britain. The historical connection between Kenya and the former colonial ruler enables the author to look beneath the black/white binary in her interrogation of local particularities that articulate Kenya’s linkages to global modernity. This book challenges conventional notions of both ‘text’ and ‘narrative’, a gesture that will no doubt interest literary theorists. A Death Retold is an exciting achievement and a useful contribution to the existing corpus of cultural studies texts from and on Kenya.

– Mbugua wa Mungai  (Kenyatta University, Kenya)


Grace A Musila is an Associate Professor in the English Department, Stellenbosch University and a research fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies (STIAS). She holds a PhD in African Literature from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Her research interests include Gender Studies, Eastern and Southern African literatures and African popular culture. She is the author A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder (James Currey, 2015); which looks at British and Kenyan interpretations of the 1988 murder of British tourist Julie Ann Ward in Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya.  Musila has also co-edited Rethinking Eastern African Intellectual Landscapes (Africa World Press, 2012).

One thought on “A Death Retold In Truth And Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder (2015)

  1. Professor Grace A.Musila,I am inspired by your creative writing of “A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour…” Great work


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