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Heirs of millionaire sought after killing

A SEARCH is under way for the British heirs of a reclusive and eccentric millionaire who was shot dead by law enforcement officials during a raid on his remote ranch in mountains in Malibu, California.

Donald Scott was killed when more than two dozen heavily armed officers - Los Angeles sheriff's deputies, the US Drug Enforcement Administration and others - burst into his house, using a battering ram. According to Mr Scott's lawyer, they were acting on a tip-off that he was growing marijuana. They found none.

Mr Scott, 61, whose mother was English, had inherited a fortune, much of which was made by his grandfather, who sold Scott's Emulsion, a health potion which sold widely in Britain, and which still exists. His lawyer, Nick Gutsue, has unearthed a trust in a New York bank containing dollars 1.3m ( pounds 765,000), which stipulates that dollars 650,000 should be passed on to his British first cousins. It is not known where the cousins are, or even how many there are.

Mr Scott's killing is the subject of a homicide inquiry by the local district attorney's office. It is the latest in a series of controversial incidents involving the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which has repeatedly been heavily criticised over its use of deadly force by human rights organisations.

The shooting happened 12 days ago, at breakfast time, although details have only recently come to light. A posse of 26 heavily armed, flak-jacketed law enforcement officers sped into Mr Scott's ranch in a caravan of vehicles, and burst into his ramshackle house.

According to his 38-year-old wife, Frances Plante, Mr Scott, who was partially blind because he suffered from cataracts, was asleep when the raid began. Hearing the commotion, he rushed into the living room carrying a loaded revolver over his head. She has said that the officers ordered him to drop the gun three times, in rapid succession. As his arm dropped, he was shot from close range by two sheriff's deputies. He was hit in the chest by two bullets and died instantly.

Mr Gutsue said that the sheriff's department, which has refused to discuss the case publicly, had subsequently been 'apologetic and sympathetic'. It appeared the officers thought he had pointed the weapon at them.

He said that the police had an informant's tip-off that Mr Scott, who had no criminal record, was cultivating marijuana plants on his ranch, in the Santa Monica mountains, north of Los Angeles. Before the raid, they had conducted an aerial surveillance of his land. Despite hours of searching after the killing, none was found.

Mr Scott, who was educated in Switzerland, was a colourful character. Despite his wealth, he wore jeans and carried little money. At the time of his death he was contemplating selling his ranch, Trail's End, and buying a luxury yacht called The Other Woman.

He was married three times. In the 1960s he had a stormy affair with the French-born actress Corinne Calvet, the Hollywood leading lady of the 1950s, which ended in a legal battle over dollars 750,000 worth of property he claimed to have given her (including a watch said to have belonged to Eva Peron). During the trial, Mr Scott claimed that Ms Calvet, was given to practising voodoo using a silver pendulum and a bar of soap.

Although he once worked as an airline pilot, most of his life was devoted to his leisure interests, including racing Mercedes and Ferraris. In his youth he often visited Britain, where his father raced horses. But in later life he became more reclusive, spending spent most of his time on his ranch, amid his books, guns, Persian carpets and old maps of Indian territories. He had four children, who live in America.

Plans are being drawn up by Mr Scott's relatives to bring a case alleging that he was wrongfully killed.