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The real Crocodile Dundee dies in police shootout

A RUGGED Australian rancher whose feats of survival in the Outback inspired the movie character Crocodile Dundee was killed in a shootout, policesaid yesterday.

From his hiding place in the bushes along a highway, Rodney William Ansell, 44, ambushed and killed Sergeant Glen Huitson. Another officer returned fire, killing Ansell, 30 miles south of the Northern Territory capital of Darwin. His barefoot body was found with two high-powered rifles.

Officers had spent the previous 12 hours searching for a man who had attacked a nearby house on Monday, injuring two people. Assistant police commissioner John Daulby said it was thought Ansell was responsible for that attack too.

Ansell became a local hero in 1977 after being swept out to sea and landing on a small island with nothing but wallabies and cattle to sustain him for two months. Only a visit by an Aboriginal tribe saved him. His exploits were celebrated in a book and a documentary film.

Ansell's story inspired actor Paul Hogan to write Crocodile Dundee. The film, in which Hogan starred, became an international hit in 1986.

Much of the humour was inspired by Ansell's book tour in Sydney. He reportedly insisted in sleeping in his sleeping bag in a five-star hotel and was mystified by the bidet, a scene recreated in the movie, which was followed by a 1988 sequel.

But Ansell's fortunes fell sharply. Financial difficulties forced him to sell his Melaleuca ranch in the early 1990s, and he blamed the government for not compensating him properly during a disease eradication programme that cost him 3,000 head of cattle. He was also reportedly bitter that he never profited financially from the movies. In 1992, Ansell was convicted of stealing cattle and fined for assaulting a rancher.

Then, on Monday night, police responded to reports that a man had fired shots at locals.On Tuesday two officers were preparing to dismantle a road block they had set up to capture the attacker, when a motorist stopped to ask for directions.

Suddenly shots flew from a roadside bush, injuring the motorist and piercing Sgt Huitson's bulletproof vest. His partner returned fire, killing Ansell.

The attack left police baffled. "If this person wanted to secret himself he could have easily done that, if he wanted to escape he could have easily done that. He was a bushman," assistant commissioner Daulby said.