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Right-Wing Rancher-Politician Shot Dead

November 30, 1985 GMT

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) _ Millionaire rancher Douglas Collard Lilford, co-founder of the party that ruled this former British colony for 15 years, was found shot to death today after reportedly being attacked by a gang, the wife of an employee said.

Harare police confirmed the murder, but would give no details.

Former Prime Minister Ian Smith, who with Lilford founded the Rhodesian Front Party, said in a telephone interview today, ″Boss Lilford was one of my closest and greatest friends - a wonderful man with very strong principles, who was prepared to die for those principles, and I hope this is not the reason why he did die.″


Rita Purchase, wife of Lilford’s race horse trainer, Frank Purchase, said the rancher’s maid told her the gang attacked Lilford at his Doornfontein farmhouse and demanded keys to the safe and gunroom.

Mrs. Purchase said Lilford, 77, wounded one of the intruders before being shot in the head.

″It’s obvious he went through quite an ordeal. We found an electric cord that they had tied his hands behind his back with, and he had obviously been beaten up before they eventually shot him,″ she told The Associated Press by telephone from the ranch, 15 miles from Harare.

Mrs. Purchase said she and her husband had left Lilford’s house at about 10:30 p.m. Friday and later were alerted by the maid, who said she was abducted and then released by the attackers.

Mrs. Purchase said they found Lilford’s body at 12:15 a.m.

She said the gang stole a small car that was recovered by police in Harare’s southern suburb of Chitungwiza. She said nothing else was stolen, adding, ″They could have ransacked the house. But everything is in order - even the video and television are all in place.″

Lilford was vice president under Smith of the Rhodesian Front Party. The party ruled the colony, then called Rhodesia, from 1965, when Smith unilaterally declared it independent of Britain, until 1980, when a black government took power from the whites under a British-brokered accord that granted it legal independence.

The 1980 accord called for reconciliation between whites and blacks.

However, several white farmers have been murdered by rebels in an anti- government campaign in the last three years in the southern Matabeleland and Masvingo provinces.

Earlier this month, Smith described black as illiterate and inept politicians on a British Broadcasting Corp. television program. Prime Minister Robert Mugabe told the National Assembly that Smith was ″an incorrible racist″ who ″should long ago have been hanged.″ Other black legislators took up the call last week with demands that Smith be jailed.

Members of Smith’s party, including one legislator, speculated today that Lilford’s murder could be the start of reprisals generated by such remarks, though certainly not ordered by Mugabe’s government.

″Everyone’s rather scared and panicky. We’re wondering who’ll be next,″ said a parliamentarian who spoke on condition he not be identified.

Smith refused to discuss any possible political motive. ″We have no idea what was behind this dastardly act, and it would be premature to come to conclusions,″ he said.

Lilford was acquitted after a two-month trial in 1968 of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm to a herdsman who charged Lilford set dogs on him and beat him with a leather thong.

The court ruled the alleged victim and other farmworkers did not give satisfactory evidence.

But the trial provoked then-banned African nationalist organizations to circulate pamphlets charging that Lilford killed blacks with dogs and threatening to bury him alive.

Lilford quit politics in 1982 to take care of his farms, where he grew tobacco and corn, raised cattle and breeded race horses.

Mrs. Purchase called his death ″absolutely tragic. He was a legend in his time.″

A self-made millionaire, Lilford was born in Grahamstown, South Africa, and came to Zimbabwe at age five in 1908 and was brought up on the Doornfontein farm.