Blood in Bulawayo

2014-06-08 15:00

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A dapper former army man, a glamorous mistress, a gold mine, expensive whiskey and a mysterious death.

It has all the makings of a Hollywood thriller, but this is no film script; it’s the bizarre tale of Robert “Rab” Wood, a former Special Air Service (SAS) operator in the British army who was found dead in March 2013 in his home in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

This week, an inquest into Wood’s death found that there was no foul play and ruled it a suicide.

But Wood’s brothers refuse to accept this judgment. They suspect foul play and are determined to continue their fight to clear his name. Wood (54) was found dead wearing only his underpants, hanging from a window railing with one foot resting on a bed.

His Zimbabwean mistress Henrietta Dube – he has a wife and children at home in Britain – was the sole beneficiary of his will and allegedly cleared hundreds of thousands of dollars from his bank account within days of his death.

Wood’s family has also accused Dube of selling off his shares in Bulawayo’s Goodenough gold mine, which Wood managed on behalf of British investors in return for a share of the profits, after his death.

The strange tale even reaches into South Africa. Businessman Titus Ncube became involved in the matter after he was allegedly conned into buying shares worth $350?000 (R3.8?million) in Goodenough.

Ncube made headlines at home and in Zimbabwe three years ago when, while on business in Bulawayo, he ordered a “young” prostitute for the evening and then his own daughter knocked on his hotel room door.

Sindiso Mazibisa, the lawyer who represented Dube during the inquest, is facing criminal charges after Ncube accused him of being complicit in selling the shares. Police are investigating fraud charges against Mazibisa.

Wood’s youngest brother, Ian, told City Press this week that the family refused to accept the findings of two postmortems – one conducted in Zimbabwe and one in the UK. In both cases, the death was ruled a suicide.

During the inquest, conducted by a magistrate, taxi driver Mandlenkosi Nkali and an off-duty officer from Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organisation, Nkosilathi Dube, testified that Wood was very drunk on the night of his death. They had all been partying at a club in Bulawayo, the pair testified.

Henrietta asked Nkosilathi – it’s not known if the two are related – to take Wood home because, the officer testified, he was too drunk to drive himself.

The two men testified they left after dropping the couple off at their home. They were the first two people on the scene the next morning after Henrietta discovered Wood’s body.

The day after his death, Ian Wood claims, Henrietta and Nkosilathi started collecting money from the mine’s managers to settle outstanding debts.

She and a man described as her new boyfriend also posted pictures on social media sites of themselves having a party with what Wood’s brothers claim was his very expensive whiskey collection in Johannesburg.

Wood and Henrietta shared houses in Johannesburg and in Zimbabwe.

Ian and John Wood, who attended all the court sittings while the inquest was under way, were stunned by the verdict this week.

“We must carry on. The magistrate chose to be selective [about] which pieces of evidence he considered. He wouldn’t rule on the [contested] will as a court has not legally determined the authenticity of it. We thought that was his job as the matter was heard in court,” Ian Wood said this week.

“We are even more determined now than before. Things have a strange way of sorting themselves out. We must just keep on digging.”

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