Murder, Witchcraft and the Killing of Wildlife

Police Investigations at the Heart of Africa

Stephen Rabey Matthews

THIS WAS THE TIME OF THE BELGIAN CONGO DÉBÂCLE, where ethnic cleansing coincided with Steve's first police posting near the Northern Rhodesia border with the Congo, at the age of 21. He graphically describes being knifed, ambushed, stoned, wounded by bow and arrow and shotgun and had his hand broken several times.
Date Published :
February 2021
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Illustration :
44 black and white illustrations
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding : Hardback
ISBN : 9781526764072
Pages : 248
Dimensions : 9.25 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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This was the time of the Belgian Congo debacle where ethnic cleansing coincided with Steve's first police posting near the Northern Rhodesia border with the Congo, at the age of 21. He graphically describes being knifed, ambushed, stoned, wounded by bow and arrow and shotgun and had his hand broken several times.

He saved the life of President Kaunda from a potential assassination attempt and acted as a driver and bodyguard to President Tsombe of the breakaway state of Katanga. Steve was solely responsible for exposing and tracking down a dangerous British Army deserter and communist spy working in the Congo and Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), seeing him neutralized and his operation disbanded. Throughout the book, he gives full credit to his African police colleagues for their immense courage, humor, loyalty and total dedication.

The book will standout because it depicts unique, true stories of dealing with witchcraft murders and cannibalism in all its repugnant forms. Steve, personally thwarted an ambush on a group of famous Congo mercenaries known as the Wild Geese. He describes incidents of black magic, kidnapping, arson, gunrunning and people trafficking. He successfully detected the first computer fraud in the territory, and later for the first time, brought back a European fugitive in a series of fraud cases to face justice, from the atrocious apartheid country of South Africa; of being given a government award for his part in combatting the slaughter of wildlife and in taking part in the search for the downed aircraft of the United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld – still the subject of much controversy today.

Steve's life was saved several times by his courageous Doberman, Alex regarded as a witch doctor by local tribes. This is the true, action-packed, unadulterated stories of those frantic and dangerous years, where a young police inspector found himself confronted by fearsome actions and events well beyond his complete understanding while serving in the elite police force in Northern Rhodesia now Zambia, which was then a British Protectorate prior to independence.

Steve has strived not to duplicate any of these true stories, which provides an indication of just how involved and energizes his dedicated years of service really were. Nevertheless, he pushed on regardless, with the realization that he was doing an important and necessary job for the benefit of the unprivileged peoples of the country; yet the police were fighting on two fronts, trying to protect the vulnerable citizens and at the same time endeavoring to stop the slaughter of the country's wildlife.

About The Author

Stephen was born in Guernsey, Channel Islands shortly before the outbreak of W.W.II and later illegally deported to concentration camps in Germany with his family. He describes these horrendous events in his book 'The Day The Nazis Came'. Following liberation by Free French Forces in 1945 the family returned to Guernsey where he was educated at Elizabeth College. He undertook his business training with Maple & Co Ltd of Tottenham Court Road and later joined the Northern Rhodesia Police (A British Protectorate) in 1959, with the express purpose of helping to Africanise the force prior to independence. He underwent a series of intensive courses in Criminal and Civil Law, African Languages and Para-military training.

In five years of continuous service, Stephen was ambushed, stoned, knifed, attacked with a metal bar and seriously injured, wounded by bow and arrow and shotgun. He had his hand broken several times and his life was saved on several occasions by his dedicated team of African detectives and his loyal dog Alex, the Doberman (regarded as a witchdoctor by local tribesmen).

Stephen was even threatened twice with Court Martial, however, he gained a plethora of awards and commendations and was finally granted early promotion as the youngest officer ever so promoted in any British Colonial Police Force. He met with Presidents, such as President Tsombe of Katanga, and he personally foiled a potential assassination attempt on the life of President-Elect, Kenneth Kaunda. He personally saved Wild Geese Mercenaries from being ambushed in the Congo, tracked down an International Terrorist, investigated several witchcraft murders, and dealt with cannibalism, and he even took part in the search for the downed aircraft of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, still the subject of controversy to this day.


Each in its own way, these books track important changes in the legal systems that deal with heinous crimes against men, women and children. So, what’s left — animals? Well, yes. Stephen R. Matthews covers that ground in MURDER, WITCHCRAFT AND THE KILLING OF WILDLIFE: Police Investigations at the Heart of Africa (Pen & Sword, 231 pp., $34.95). It’s tough to compete with witch doctors, gun runners, government assassins, mercenaries and assorted other strong personalities of that ilk, but the author’s magnificent Doberman, modestly named Alex, comes off best in this rattling good memoir by a former British police officer writing of his colorful career while on assignment in Congo. As a visitor to the police station patiently explains his complaint to the desk sergeant: “You know, this is all about witchcraft and of course, the Bwana’s big brown dog Alex knows who did it.” I mean, what’s not to love about a story featuring a canine revered for his courage, sagacity and insight into human malfeasance? In between solving murders and settling village grievances, Matthews is frequently called upon to deal with a variety of local scams, like the self-serving hustle of a mortician who has convinced a woman that her dear departed husband would be restored to life if she would have sex with him — the mortician, not the dead husband. But the soul of the book resides in the author’s efforts to stem the evil practices of slaughtering endangered wildlife and dealing with foreign agents in the dirty business of smuggling animal parts. Despite his best attempts, Matthews could never shake off the way the locals saw him, as a white witch doctor with the ability to speak with the spirits of the dead and place spells against the living. There’s a story — several, in fact — about what led to this perception, which proves that, at the very least, the author learned a thing or two about telling a tale.

- New York Times

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