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Widow: 'Farm murder was political'

Sherry Dunn, the widow of the murdered Zimbabwean farmer Alan Dunn, held an emotional press conference in Harare yesterday to reject government claims that her husband's murder was a criminal rather than a political killing.

Mr Dunn, who emigrated from Kent in 1971, was lured out of his farmhouse, 50 miles south of Harare, by six men who beat him with chains and sticks, broke chairs over his head and smashed him with concrete blocks. He died in a Harare hospital on Monday. According to his wife, nothing was stolen from the house, the attack lasted five to 10 minutes and the men fled from the farm immediately afterwards.

Mr Dunn was a local organiser for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, but was not a big player in the party, she said. Mrs Dunn and her three daughters - Kate, 18, Sarah, 15, and Emma, 12 - heard his screams and the sound of the beating as they ran to hide in a guesthouse.

Zimbabwe's Information Minister, Chenhamo Chimutengwende, had said he could not believe that the war veterans who have occupied white farms could be responsible for Mr Dunn's death because the government, veterans' representatives and farmers have been negotiating to end violence. He said it was possible that thieves "will always take advantage of the environment".

Mrs Dunn said: "They were not thieves. That is very definite." She said her husband met the local leader of the war veterans and other white commercial farmers last Friday. "It has got out of control. I don't think the powers-that-be are fully in control. "It is not about land. That is just a front. It is about the economy."

A leading white Kenyan said yesterday that hundreds of families had invaded two white-owned farms. The anthropologist Richard Leakey, the head of Kenya's civil service, said: "The government wishes to acknowledge that there hasbeen a land dispute [but] there is no connection whatsoever [to] events in Zimbabwe."

Basil Criticos said his sisal farm had been invaded aftercalls from radical politicians for under-used white-owned land to be taken over.