THE parents of a young Irish aid worker who was murdered on a beach in Zanzibar, yesterday heard a first-hand account of how their son spent his last hours.
Robert Stringer (26) from Newcastle, Co Wicklow, who had been working with the Irish charity Camara, was found dead in August 2009, after spending just five weeks on the popular holiday island off Tanzania in the Indian Ocean.
Yesterday his parents Keith and Josephine Stringer and his two younger brothers Peter and Graham were in court to hear the opening of a murder case against two accused men, Othman Khamis (35) and Mohammed Abdulah (39), both residents of Zanzibar.
The first witness for the prosecution, Peter Minchin, a South African national, told the High Court that he had been celebrating his birthday on August 5, 2009, the night Robert was killed.
Mr Minchin, who travelled to Zanzibar from South Africa to testify, said he had asked one of the accused, Othman Khamis, to drive Mr Stringer to his home to join him and another seven guests at a party.
Khamis, who drove Mr Stringer to the party, had been Mr Minchin's best friend for 12 years, he told the court.
At about 5pm, everyone left Mr Minchin's home, which is at Nungwi beach, and went to a local bar. The celebrations continued there until 1am.
"Before I went to sleep I said goodbye to Stringer and we agreed to meet the next day for further business discussions ... I was shocked next morning to hear that he had been found dead." Mr Minchin told the court.
He added that at around 4am, Khamis, phoned him to ask the whereabouts of Stringer. "I told him I didn't know his whereabouts" he said. "I was therefore surprised to hear a few hours after the call that Stringer has been found dead."
The accused could face life imprisonment or the death penalty, if found guilty. The hearing has been adjourned until Thursday, this week.
When Mr Stringer's body was found in bushes close to the beach at about 8am on August 6, his wallet, mobile phone and shoes were missing.
Yesterday, his aunt Frances Stephenson said his family only heard the court case was starting yesterday a week ago and had to make flight arrangements in a rush.
She said they had made "their sad and difficult journey in the hope that their presence at the trial will send a strong signal to the authorities in Zanzibar".
She added that the Irish Embassy in Dar es Salaam had been very supportive.