Kenyan Bishops Want Inquest Into Missionary´s Death

Inexplicable Gaps in the Case of American Father Kaiser

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NAIROBI, Kenya, MAY 1, 2001 ( Kenya´s bishops have called for an inquest into the death of a U.S.-born missionary priest and criticized a FBI report that called the case a suicide.

The bishops´ conference issued a statement expressing its position regarding the FBI´s version of the death of Father John Anthony Kaiser, 67, a Perham, Minnesota-born Mill Hill missionary.

Bishop Peter Kairo of Nakuru was one of the first to go to the scene last August, in Naivasha, about 70 kilometers (43 miles) west of Nairobi. He found the body of Father Kaiser on the pavement. He had been shot in the head. His pickup truck was 33 feet away in a ditch.

The priest, a vocal critic of the government, had been considered a nuisance by the Nairobi authorities. A week before his death, the priest said that he feared for his life. «He was upset and nervous,» one of his religious companions commented.

Father Kaiser went to Kenya shortly after his ordination. After 20 years in the Diocese of Kisii, he was transferred to Ngong in 1993.

Regarding the FBI report, the entire bishops´ conference expressed serious doubts about it, and pointed out a series of inexplicable gaps.

The first doubts are related to the evidence collected by the FBI detectives. The bishops mention the «unprofessional and selective scene of crime evidence,» «blurred photographs,» «no explanation of fingerprints that were found in the car and not found on the gun.» They also say there is «no mention of the blood found on the pickup and on the ax found in it.»

The bishops wonder if «all the witnesses were interviewed» and «what certainty can be ascribed to their evidence.»

«Where is the evidence that Father Kaiser was shot by his own gun?» they ask. «No ballistic report was presented.»

In the second place, referring to the postmortem evidence, the Kenyan bishops wonder why «the FBI ignores three out of four doctors present at the examination of the corpse.»

«It would appear in order to support the suicide proposition, that Father Kaiser involved himself in rather difficult contortions while in the process of killing himself,» the statement says.

A «Doctor Di Maio,» the only doctor quoted extensively, said: «Based on the materials you supplied me, I would conclude that if this case occurred in my jurisdiction, I would classify it as a self-inflicted wound.» But he concludes, «I would be glad to consider any further evidence submitted to me.»

Given this statement, the bishops wonder what materials were given to Di Maio. «He seems to suggest that there should be more material or evidence available, which was not supplied to him,» the bishops insist. «What materials or evidence are these? What did he expect to get and did not?»

The bishops are also surprised by the importance, given by the FBI report, to the priest´s mental health history and his state of mental health in the last 96 hours of his life. This seems to have been done in order to strengthen the suicide proposition, they say.

Yet on Page 80 of the report, it is stated that Father Kaiser had future plans, the bishops note. According to psychiatrists, suicide is a result of feeling worthless or hopeless — and this was not the case with Father Kaiser, the bishops say.

«His immediate superiors, his closest friends and family, while accepting the great stress of being followed, harassed and threatened, did not consider Father Kaiser had suicidal tendencies, and he himself expressly excluded the idea of suicide while expressly foreseeing his own murder,» the bishops´ statement points out.

The bishops conclude their statement by asking that an inquest be held; that the attorney general compile a file on the investigation and present this to the inquest; that evidence in investigations be handed over to the proposed independent court of inquiry.

The statement is signed by Bishop John Njue of Embu, president of the episcopal conference; Bishop Cornelius Korir of Eldoret, its vice president; and the 24 remaining Kenyan bishops.

Paul McCabe, an FBI spokesman in Minneapolis, Minnesota, said the agency stands by its report, the Associated Press said.

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