African murder stuns academics

August 23, 2002

Zimbabwe's academic community has been stunned by the axe murder of a British lecturer who was attacked at his home near Bulawayo and buried in a shallow grave. Jerzy "Jed" Toloczko, 51, had just returned from visiting his mother in Leicester.

Police have arrested Mr Toloczko's gardener and another man, both in their 20s, whom they accuse of ambushing Mr Toloczko last Wednesday night as he arrived at his home in Ilanda, and parked his car near the garage.

"The academic community here is shocked, distressed and deeply saddened by his death," said Felix Moyo, director of information and publicity at Bulawayo's National University of Science and Technology, where Mr Toloczko worked as a lecturer in chartered surveying.

"He left his own country to give service to our community, to improve their lives through education. Higher education staff are difficult to recruit, but more than that, Mr Toloczko was an outgoing character who was well liked and committed to his duties."

After repeatedly chopping Mr Toloczko's head with an axe, the murderers wrapped his body in a blanket and buried him in a shallow grave in the garden. They then broke into his house and stole a pair of shoes, trousers, a shirt, a wallet containing less than £6 and a mobile phone.

The men were arrested after they visited a traditional healer to be spiritually cleansed.

Mr Toloczko, a widely travelled sports lover who had spent years in Africa, was one of some 150 lecturers at the National University of Science and Technology, which was established 11 years ago and has 3,000 students.

He joined the staff in November 1999 and, according to Mr Moyo, he had planned to renew his three-year contract when it expired later this year. "We wanted him to stay. He was always very clean and well dressed, and was a hard-working, frank person. He won many friends."

Mr Toloczko's brother Roman, 49, who lives in Oadby, Leicestershire, said the family was devastated. He described Mr Toloczko as a carefree bachelor, a "great raconteur" and a generous man who loved Africa and returned from his frequent visits home with gifts for people in Bulawayo.

"He always embraced every morsel of local cultures when he lived in different locations. He was very humbled by the poverty in Africa. Africa was one of his great loves."

On his recent two-month visit home, Mr Toloczko told his Polish-born mother, Janina, 77, that Zimbabwe's troubles were exaggerated and "he heard about more crime in London than Bulawayo".

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