via Family of former SAS soldier offer £15,500 for information about his death – Telegraph by Miranda Prynne 05 Nov 2013
The wife and brothers of a former serviceman who was found hanged in Zimbabwe are hoping a cash reward will help uncover the truth about his death
A family who believe a former SAS soldier was murdered and his will forged during an extra-marital affair have offered £15,500 for information.
Robert Wood, 54, was found hanged at the home he shared with his mistress in Zimbabwe.
Authorities in the troubled African state identified four murder suspects during an investigation into the ex-corporal’s death but refused to co-operate with UK police, an inquest was told.
Recording an open verdict, Surrey coroner Richard Travers said some of the evidence he had heard was “very suspicious” but there was insufficient detail to draw any firm conclusions.
Father-of-two Mr Wood, known as Rab to his friends, had been running a lucrative goldmine in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, for two British investors in return for a 13 per cent stake in the business when he died.
Robert Mugabe’s state-run police force claimed the Glasgow-born former serviceman had committed suicide but his family insist he was killed.
Speaking outside the inquest in Woking, Surrey, his brother Ian Wood, said: “We hope publicity about this case will lead to answers and we are putting out a $25,000 (£15,500) dollars reward for information.
“We hope that maybe a catalyst to spur someone on in Zimbabwe to come forward and talk about what happened to Robert.”
Mr Wood’s widow Susan told the inquest she had spoken to her husband the day before his death and he had been planning to return to the family home in Windlesham, Surrey, to celebrate his 55th birthday.
The mother-of-two said she knew about his overseas affair but had told him it would not affect their family life in the UK.
Mrs Wood, 59, learnt of her husband of 20 years’ death from his mistress Henrietta Dube, who called her from Zimbabwe, the inquest heard.
She said: “I actually thought it was a cruel trick – that he was on a beach somewhere and she had been told to phone me and tell me he had died because he had done a runner.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I questioned her quite closely because I was in disbelief.
“She rang me back several times and I rang her too and I asked her how she had found him. She said he had hanged himself.
“She was perfectly calm; she got a bit upset and I said to her, ‘Are you on your own?’
“She said people were coming in and out. I said, ‘You’ve got to stop that until the police come.’ They needed to see it how it was.”
Mr Wood was discovered with a belt around his neck, hanging from security bars in the spare room of the house he rented with Miss Dube on March 9 last year, after a night of heavy drinking.
A post-mortem in Zimbabwe gave the cause of death as asphyxia and a pathologist recorded it as suicide.
But speaking at the inquest, Ian Wood, who travelled to Zimbabwe to try and uncover the truth earlier this year, accused Miss Dube, a director of the mine, of forging his dead sibling’s will.
He said Miss Dube’s boyfriend Bhekithemba Nyoni had “stepped into Rab’s shoes” in running the mine and had emptied the company’s account.
Mr Nyoni even started driving Mr Wood’s car and posted pictures online posing with the dead man’s whiskey collection, according to the brother.
He said: “He has more or less taken over Robert’s role. He’s still got the car Robert owned.
“I’ve got pictures here of Rab’s whiskey collection and him with them, and with handfuls of money. I got the pictures from the internet.”
Surrey detectives tried to investigate Mr Wood’s death but their inquiries were thwarted by a lack of cooperation from the local police force, the coroner was told.
Ian, of Dover, Kent, said police in Zimbabwe admitted they had identified four murder suspects, but would not give him any further information.
He also claimed he had uncovered evidence that Miss Dube had given differing accounts of the death and had forged a will to try to cash in on Mr Wood’s assets after he died.
The forgery was under investigation by Zimbabwean police but again he could not get any information.
He said: “I got a phone call to say that Henrietta had been up to the mine with armed guards and taken over the mine. They stole gold, removed some vehicles and took over the mine.
“They emptied the company bank account on February 15, which was the same day the forged will was signed.”
Another brother, David Wood, told the inquest that he met Robert for a coffee in London just a week before his death and that he had “looked troubled” and said “they are trying to get me out of the mine.”
Ian Wood showed the coroner an email he had received from Miss Dube which read: “I don’t believe Rab killed himself at all. I also want to see justice being done.”
He said: “She’s the one who was supposed to have been in the house with him (when he died).
“Whether she got frightened or whatever, maybe she’s getting frightened because we are getting closer to the truth.
“Whether this guy Bhekithemba took over the situation and forced her hand, we don’t know.”
After leaving the SAS Mr Wood found work providing security services to miners in Sierra Leone then expanded into the mining industry in Zimbabwe.
His wife Susan, with whom he had two sons aged 18 and 19, described him as an optimist who was “too full of life” to kill himself.
She said: “There was always something good around the corner.”
Coroner Richard Travers said: “It has to be said that some of what I’ve heard does seem very odd and indeed very suspicious.
“But I have to recognise that much of what has been said, in court terms, is mere speculation. There’s an absence of direct evidence to support it.
“In all of the circumstances, there is insufficient evidence for me to determine properly how Rab came by his death and I therefore record an open verdict.”