THE family of a young Irish charity worker killed in Zanzibar have travelled to the island to attend the trial of the man charged with his killing.
Robert Stringer, 26, from Newcastle, Co Wicklow, was found dead in August 2009 on a beach in Zanzibar, an island in the Indian Ocean 25 miles off Tanzania. He had suffered head injuries and had also been mugged.
A local taxi driver, who had been driving Stringer around the island, has been charged with his killing. Othman Hamed Khamis, a Zanzibar local, is due to stand trial tomorrow. It is understood police believe he had two accomplices who have since fled the island.
A signal from Stringer's mobile phone, which was stolen in the mugging along with his shoes and money, was picked up in South Africa shortly after his death. Because of the lack of a reliable public transport system in Zanzibar, tourists to the island tend to hire taxi drivers to travel around.
The charity worker's parents, Keith and Josephine, as well as his two younger brothers, Peter, 26, and Graham, 24, are in Zanzibar awaiting Khamis's trial.
"Robert had the biggest heart of anyone you could ever meet. He just wanted to help people and give something back. The reason he had travelled to Zanzibar was to try and arrange a local music festival and some of his friends from Ireland were going to travel over to help him," his aunt Frances Stephenson told the Sunday Tribune. "He was a very special guy. If you met him you would remember him."
Stringer was a qualified engineer but his real passion was music and event management. He had completed a five-week volunteer mission in Tanzania with the charity Camara, which donates second-hand computers to African countries.
The organisation takes in second-hand computers that have been discarded by Irish organisations, businesses and individuals, refurbishes them and sends them to schools and colleges in sub-Saharan Africa.
The family were only informed about Khamis's trial a week ago and rushed out to Zanzibar as soon as they could. Khamis was arrested within days of Stringer's death almost a year-and-a-half ago.
"There has been a lot of delay and uncertainly over the progression of court proceedings, which has been very hard for the family," said Stephenson. "Most of all, they just don't want another family to go through their pain of being unsure of what's going on."