Historian 'assassinated and not robbery victim'

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The Independent Online

The murder of David Rattray, the internationally renowned historian of the Zulu wars, may have been a targeted killing rather than a violent robbery, it emerged yesterday.

Mr Rattray, 48, was shot dead on Friday evening at Fugitives' Drift, his lodge overlooking the site of the battle of Rorke's Drift. He was famous for his dramatic recountings of the events at Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift, often moving his listeners to tears.

The historian was a friend of the Prince of Wales, who took Prince Harry on a visit to Fugitives' Drift in 1997 shortly after the death of Princess Diana. Prince Charles, currently in the US, was yesterday "shocked and deeply saddened" by the news, his spokesman said.

Muzi Mngomezulu, a police spokesman in Kwa-Zulu-Natal province, said six armed men entered the lodge and asked for Mr Rattray by name. An employee was held at gunpoint while one suspect entered Mr Rattray's cottage. The historian rushed into the room on hearing his wife ask the man what he was doing. He was shot twice.

Superintendent Mngomezulu said the suspects fled empty-handed, and the motive for the killing was still unknown. The murder has stoked fears that South Africa's reputation for violent crime will be reinforced ahead of the 2010 World Cup, which it is due to host.

Mr Rattray leaves a wife and three sons, Andrew, 21, Douglas, 15, and Peter, 13. According to Kingsley Holgate, a South African explorer and historian, it was especially sad that "a man who gave his life to preserving the Zulu culture and bravery of the old Zulu order ended his life at the hands of the Zulus".