NZ journalist visited by police before death

By Edward Gay, NZPA

New Zealand photojournalist Trent Keegan, found dead in Kenya, was visited by police and security guards from a safari park while investigating a story, a friend said today.

Mr Keegan emailed his friend Tim Gallagher on May 16 telling him he was writing a story about a tribe that was being kicked off its land to make way for a safari park.

Mr Gallagher told Radio New Zealand that Mr Keegan was questioned about the story.

"Trent apparently made a complaint to the Chief of Police, or whatever, and got an apology from them," Mr Gallagher said.

Mr Gallagher said Mr Keegan did not seem worried about his safety.

"He said in his email: Bloody corrupt down here, the police," Mr Gallagher said.

He said Mr Keegan was always careful when travelling. "He gets on with everybody. He's always smiling and laughing," Mr Gallagher said.

Mr Keegan was last seen getting into a taxi after spending time with a volunteer from the Volunteer Missionary Movement.

His body was found about 10 hours later - with serious head injuries - in a drainage trench off the main highway that runs through the country's capital, Nairobi, the Galway Advertiser reported.

The body was found with an Irish driver's licence in the name of Trent Keegan, and was identified by a photograph on Keegan's business website,
trentkeegan.com, which gives newspaper clients access to his photographs.

Keegan, 33, worked for the newspaper and other publications over the past three years in Ireland, but went to Africa two months ago. Two days before his death, he posted a note on a website for photographers, lightstalkers.org, seeking a writer to work with him on features in Africa.

Friends and colleagues have also emailed lightstalkers.org with memories of Mr Keegan and condolences for his family.

A friend of Mr Keegan has also posted on the site.

"My heart lies broken in that drainage trench with you," she wrote.

Others who knew him less well have expressed their sorrow at the loss.

"What a nasty shock. My condolences to Trent's family and friends," wrote one writer.

The New Zealander had won awards from the Irish Professional Photographers Association, but the portfolio of pictures on his website included scenic shots in New Zealand.

A friend of Mr Keegan's said: "Trent loved to travel around in some of the roughest places in the world and capture them on film. I don't think even in the absolute worst of situations out there would Trent have not loved every minute of it."

A Kenyan police spokesman said last night that there were "visible injuries to his head" when the body was found.

So far detectives have not been able to establish the circumstances of the death, the spokesman in Nairobi said.

Police refused to be drawn on reports that Mr Keegan was killed in a hit and run incident, but said that detectives considered such an occurrence a possibility.

Police said that Keegan's name had been released in an effort to "trace his last movements before the trail goes cold".

Keegan worked as a freelance photographer for both Kenyan and Irish papers, and was originally based in the port city of Mombassa but later moved to Nairobi.

The Irish honorary consul in Nairobi was offering help to Mr Keegan's family, a sister in Britain and parents in New Zealand.

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