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By Humphrey Malalo
NAIROBI (Reuters) - The heir to the estate of Kenya's most famous white settler family was freed on Friday after spending more than three years in jail for killing a black poacher, in a case which inflamed tensions over land and race.
Tom Cholmondeley, the grandson of Lord Delamere who came to the east African nation from Britain a century ago, was found guilty of manslaughter in May for the 2006 shooting of Robert Njoya on the family's huge Rift Valley ranch.
It was the second such case against the Eton-educated aristocrat, who was also accused of killing a wildlife ranger in 2005. That case was dropped for lack of evidence, triggering a public outcry and suggestions by many Kenyans that their country still had different laws for rich and poor.
"Cholmondeley was picked up outside the main gate in the early hours of this morning by one of his friends," said one warder at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison who asked not to be named. "I processed him and then set him free."
Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko, who handled the last trial, confirmed to Reuters he had been released. A family friend said the 41-year-old rancher planned to fly out of the country for a short holiday next week.
Cholmondeley had already been behind bars for three years when he was sentenced to eight months in May.
Prisoners in Kenyan jails who behave well usually serve just two-thirds of their term, and he was freed after five months.
The decadent lifestyle of the original Lord Delamere and other wealthy white settlers in central Kenya's "Happy Valley" inspired the book and film "White Mischief."
Cholmondeley's trial was a sensitive one in a country where white colonialists seized large tracts of the best land during British rule until independence in 1963.
Locals say influential black Kenyans then did exactly the same.
The aristocrat's release on Friday drew angry reactions from some living near his 55,000-acre Soysambu ranch, including Maasai elder Topoika Ole Kipenju.
"We are wondering what would happen if a Maasai killed two white farmers," the 70-year-old told Reuters.
(Additional reporting by Antony Gitonga in Naivasha; writing by Daniel Wallis; editing by Andrew Roche)

Reuters