Samuel Letipilia was the first prosecution witness in the trial of seven local leaders, including a ward representative and four chiefs from the Turkana community, accused of the murder of 12 of the 42 officers.
The five local leaders, Nachola Ward Representative Lawrence Lorunyei, Christopher Lokarach, Sammy Amojong Lothuro, Jeremiah Ekurao, Loomwa Looyen and conservancy rangers Ekai Loyee and Ewoi Losike, have denied the charges.
Mr Letipilia said his 501 animals were among those stolen on October 20 and driven towards Nachola. He said at around 6pm a day after the theft, a contingent of police service units accompanied by local chiefs, while tracking the livestock, were repulsed by armed bandits.
But, before they were repulsed, the witness told court ?a police helicopter conducting aerial surveillance arrived and police on board told us they had not seen any livestock?.
He added: ?I hopped into the helicopter to lead them and we found the livestock. Police decided to turn back to direct those on the ground. I joined the team on the ground and we headed to where we had spotted the livestock but found the livestock had been diverted.?
The case had failed to proceed five times since 2012 due to adjournments.
Letipilia said the theft led to a three-day search.
Testifying before Nakuru High Court judge Maureen Odero, Letipilia said only 36 of the animals were recovered with the help of local leaders who included the accused. This was after three days of negotiations involving leaders from the Turkana and Samburu communities, he said.
On the second day (October 21), after bandits took the livestock towards Suguta Valley, police were repulsed in a gun fight that lasted for four hours, Letipilia said.
And on November 10, 2012, the police officers were massacred.
Nachola sub-location chief Peter Kerio, who also testified, said on October 30, after failed recovery attempts, Samburu Kenya police reservists then raided Lomerok where 12 morans were killed.
He said after the November 10 massacre, he heard that Samburu morans and reservists wore jungle police uniforms as they staged the attack. ?We were later called for a meeting where we were interrogated by Government officials including then Rift Valley provincial commissioner Osman Warfa,? Mr Kerio said.
Like Letipilia, Kerio said his fellow chiefs had helped in the recovery and did not carry out the theft.
Former councillor Joseph Erupe (Marti ? over 50km from Baragoi) said he was sure the accused did not participate in the theft. The hearing was adjourned to December 9.
By BOAZ KIPNGENOH, The Standard