Posted on November 27, 2012

British Engineer Hacked to Death on His South African Farm

Dan Newling, Telegraph (London), November 26, 2012

A British engineer who moved to South Africa after “falling in love with the country” has been brutally murdered on his remote farmstead.

Christopher Preece was stabbed to death in his kitchen by men with machetes who left with just a few mobile phones and a small amount of cash.

The 54-year-old’s wife Felicity was also seriously injured in Saturday night’s attack, which happened on a farm the couple were turning into a nature reserve.

Mr Preece’s daughter-in-law has told how a gang of three robbers poisoned the couple’s large pack of guard dogs before breaking into the house.

Mr Preece, who is originally from Southgate in north London, is believed to have been assaulted when he confronted the men at his farm outside Ficksburg on South Africa’s border with Lesotho.

His wife Felicity, 56, is thought to have heard him crying for help, but was overpowered before she could call police. She sustained a fractured skull.

Her daughter-in-law Jeanne Preece said: “The robbers threw her against the wall, slashed her and then left her for dead. And for what? A little money, a wallet, a few phones.”

Mr Preece’s death is the latest in an alarming trend of brutal murders on remote farmsteads in post apartheid South Africa.

Since the country’s first fully democratic elections in 1994, more than 3,000 white, mainly Afrikaans, farmers have been killed in their homes.

The so-called “farm attacks” are part of the wave of criminality that has engulfed the country in recent years, something criminologist blame of a number of factors, including inept policing and widening social inequality.

But in the case of “farm attacks” — which occur far from the crime-ravaged townships — academics also blame a breakdown in the traditional social contract between employer and employee.

Police research shows that the murders are normally carried out by drug-addicted, unemployed black men. Often they have some connection with the targeted farmstead.

Local police said the attack at Mr Preece’s farm — called Fleur de Lys — is the fifth such attack, and the second murder, in the district over the past month.

Yesterday Jeanne Preece told the local Volksblad newspaper how Mr Preece had moved to South Africa in 1995 for work, after which he had “fallen in love” with the country.

He worked as principal geotechnical engineer for mining firm Snowden and was based in the country’s commercial capital Johannesburg.

However he spent every weekend on the farm, 200 miles drive away, where he and his wife Felicity lived.

The couple were passionate about wildlife and welcomed local children to the farm to teach them to ride horses.

It had been the couple’s dream to turn the farm, which is set in rolling green hills, into a nature reserve and rehabilitation resort for owls and cheetahs.

He was especially looking forward to seeing all his family over Christmas, Mrs Preece said.

Yesterday a spokesman for the hospital at which Mrs Preece is being treated said she is in a “stable but traumatised state”.

Local police spokesman Captain Phumelelo Dhlamini said police were alerted to the attack by a worker who discovered the bloody scene as he arrived for work on Sunday morning.

He said the murder weapons were found in the house. Police have not yet arrested anyone in connection with the attack, which locals believe to have been committed by men who crossed the nearby border from Lesotho.

Chris Preece