Durban mercenary involved in Seychelles coup dies before book about his life is published

The cover of the book about Peter Duffy's life. (Tania Broughton, News24)
The cover of the book about Peter Duffy's life. (Tania Broughton, News24)

Durban - The day a book about his life was sent to the printers, legendary Durban photographer Peter Duffy died.

Once a mercenary - who spent time in jail for his role in the failed 1981 Seychelles coup - his death while sitting on a bench outside a Durban shopping centre last week, could be considered somewhat of an anti-climax.

Before Duffy's death of a presumed heart attack, he had become a recluse - estranged from many, including his friend of more than 30 years, author and journalist Graham Linscott.

Linscott wrote the book Ricochets, the Life of mercenary soldier Peter Duffy after a series of interviews which took place in Linscott's home where Duffy was recuperating after a hip operation.

Duffy claimed he couldn't handle the stairs at his own home. True to Duffy's secretive style, no-one knew exactly where the house was, let alone had been there.

After signing a contract and co-operating with Linscott, he walked out of his house one day and said he wanted nothing more to do with the project.

"We didn't speak for three years. People said I should apologise to him. But there was nothing to apologise for. I didn't know what I had done wrong, if anything," Linscott said.

"But he was aware that the book was going to published and somehow got an advanced copy of it. I am told he showed it to several people who all told him he should be delighted with it. But now I will never know."


Linscott describes the book as a "romp" and not a serious book.

Because while it deals with some serious topics, it is told very much in Duffy's humorous and mischievous style.

"Linscott is the only man who understands my sense of humour," he used to say.

In the foreword, Linscott describes Duffy, who was born in Scotland into relative wealth, as an eccentric adventurer.

His was a coffee planter in Tanganyika, took up karate in Japan, acted as a film stunt man, and served as mercenary in the Congo, invading the Seychelles Islands and hijacking a plane to escape.

When he wanted a "quieter life" he took up news photography, working mainly for the Daily News and Sunday Tribune in Durban.

He loved eating out and cooking. In his later years he would be known to pitch up friend's houses armed with ingredients. Sometimes he would stay for weeks.

'Inner circle'

Up to his death, an "inner circle", including some of Durban's top restaurateurs remained loyal to him.

In a tribute posted on Facebook, former colleague Yogin Devan wrote: "I first met Peter Duffy when I joined the Sunday Tribune in 1980. Not too long thereafter he became involved in the hijacking saga.

"When he returned to the Tribune after serving his jail sentence, I worked with Duffy regularly. Some journalists frowned upon his antics as a mercenary and hijacker and gave him a wide berth.

"I preferred going on out-of-town assignments with Duffy - the boredom of long trips disappeared as he regaled me with stories about all his adventures.

"I also decided that Duffy could be handy when interviews became tricky - he had a black belt in karate.

"Duffy and I went on several exciting and dangerous missions into the then Transkei and Ciskei - and once got caught in the violence following a coup in Bisho.

"Duffy was most knowledgeable about gourmet cooking and alcoholic beverages. He bragged about cooking a good few last suppers when he was in Pretoria Central Prison. He recalled that one condemned prisoner's last meal request was scrambled eggs. Duffy was also a connoisseur of cocktails."

'What a read...'

Devan said in October 2016, he arranged a cordial meeting in Mumbai between Duffy and Captain Umesh Saxena, the pilot of the Air India plane that Duffy and his fellow mercenaries had hijacked.

"They shared their versions of the episode over beers and a meal. I once read through the manuscripts of his life story. What a read…

"When I broke the news of Duffy's death to Capt Saxena this [Saturday] morning, he was shocked and saddened."

Ricochets will be officially launched on August 17 at Adams in Musgrave Centre, Durban.

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