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from The Telegraph

Injured lioness led pride that killed Briton
By David Blair in Harare and Caroline Davies

Tuesday, August 3 1999

A FORMER public schoolboy who was killed by lions in Zimbabwe was dragged from his tent by an injured lioness that was one of a pride of up to 14, experts said yesterday.

They believe that the ageing animal had a broken leg and attacked a human because she could not hunt normal prey. A male lion from the pride helped her to carry off David Pleydell-Bouverie, 19, who had been asleep.

As Zimbabwean police began an investigation, Mr Pleydell-Bouverie's mother Victoria was being escorted to the scene of the attack, in the Matusadona national park, 300 miles north-west of Harare.

The elder son of the Hon Richard Richard Pleydell-Bouverie and grandson of the late 7th Earl of Radnor, David Pleydell-Bouverie had been spending his gap year working for a company called Under Canvas in Africa before starting university.

Supt Wayne Bvudzijena, in charge of the investigation, said yesterday that the lioness's injury possibly explained why she had attacked a human. It is thought that Mr Pleydell-Bouverie's tent was attacked in the early hours of Sunday. "A pride of 14 lions was involved. We visited the scene and found a trail of blood leading to the deceased's remains," said Supt Bvudzijena.

Park guards and police officers managed to track the pride and shot the lioness and a male. Clothing said to belong to Mr Pleydell-Bouverie was found in the stomachs.

A trained safari guide and a group of tourists were sleeping in the camp when they were woken by screams at 1am. One of the guides set fire to his shirt to scare away the lions.

Bradley Fouche, a professional safari worker, who was sharing a tent pitched away from the main group with Mr Pleydell-Bouverie, also tried to grab his rifle but could not do so before his colleague was dragged away into the bush. Mr Pleydell-Bouverie's father, the High Sheriff of Hertfordshire, said the news had been broken to him and his wife on Sunday.

He remained at the family estate at Kimpton, near Luton, with the couple's other two children, Bartholomew, 17, and Harriot, 15. He said: "We are going through the most unbearable and appalling family tragedy.

"We heard yesterday that my son had been killed and we have spent an awful night. We don't know the details. This is something that we wish to come to terms with privately." He added: "It is something I cannot live with. I do not know how I am going to."

David Pleydell-Bouverie had been in Zimbabwe for much of the summer, according to a friend who asked not to be named. He had taken a year out after leaving Harrow and was working as a cook at the campsite. "David was a lovely young man - he was bright and genial with a taste for adventure," she said. "He was enjoying his stay in Africa and decided that he wanted to stay a bit longer after heading out to the safari area."

Another close family friend said: "It is just terrible. David had his whole life in front of him. The family are in a terrible way."

His former housemaster at Harrow, Ross Beckett, said: "David travelled to Zimbabwe when he was just 13 or 14 and has been full of enthusiasm for Africa ever since.

"He developed a passionate interest in the place, so it was no surprise to us to hear that he was heading back there for his gap year - he obviously loved the place." Mr Pleydell-Bouverie was a keen cricketer and was expecting to take up a place at either Bristol or Newcastle universities following his year out.

Exact details of the attack remained sketchy because the Zimbabwean authorities were being impeded by poor roads and a lack of amenities. The Foreign Office said diplomats were travelling to the park.

"Our consular staff will be in the area to monitor the investigation," said a spokesman. According to safari operators, the lions in the park have seen their normal prey flee rising waters from Lake Kariba, making them desperate for food.

The pride responsible for the killing was well known to safari operators, who called them the Fothergill Island pride. The lioness shot by police was also familiar to tour leaders.

Trish Berry, from Zambesi Safari and Travel, said: "The lioness is quite well known. She used to have an abscess on her foot which was treated by the park. But her leg may have been broken later. Lions only attack humans if they have been injured and are unable to hunt for their normal prey."

With 354 lions Matusadona has one of the largest concentrations of lions of any reserve in Africa. "The lions are the key attraction when we market tours there," said Mrs Berry.

Covering a rugged area of mountains and scrub on the shores of Lake Kariba, Matusadona is one of the most remote parks in Zimbabwe. "It is not easily accessible by road. Most people visit by boat or plane," she added.

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