Kenya police probe suspected killings on Del Monte pineapple farm

NAIROBI (Reuters) -Kenyan police said on Wednesday they were investigating suspected killings of four men on a Del Monte pineapple farm near Nairobi, months after a media report said security guards on the same farm had killed and assaulted trespassing villagers.

Friends and relatives of the latest victims urged the government to intervene to explain how the four ended up in a river, around 40 km (25 miles) from Nairobi.

Multinational food company Del Monte said its local unit was cooperating with the authorities and alleged there was rampant organised crime around pineapple theft in the region.

“Our security footage from when the men attempted to steal pineapple shows no foul play on Del Monte’s part and instead shows the thieves running away towards the river… as they tried to run away from security guards,” it said.

Earlier this year a joint investigation by Britain’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Guardian newspaper found evidence that they said showed security guards working for Del Monte had killed and brutally assaulted villagers suspected of trespassing on the Kenyan pineapple farm.

Del Monte said at the time it had initiated investigations, supported by an independent review by a specialist human rights consultancy.

“Kenyan police have launched investigations into the killings of people inside the Del Monte pineapple farm,” said David Kainga Mathiu, Muranga county police commander.

“We have not yet arrested any suspects,” he told Reuters.

After five days of searching, two bodies were found in the river on Sunday, and another two on Monday, independent broadcaster Citizen TV reported.

“When we found the first body, we started screaming,” Rhoda Wayua told Citizen TV. “After a while, the second body washed up. It was that of my son.”

Another relative, Peter Kamanzi, claimed at least one of the victims had sustained injuries that may have contributed to his death.

“It’s quite visible that this boy was seriously beaten up,” Kamanzi said.

(Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Nick Macfie, Bhargav Acharya and Leslie Adler)