Thursday, September 24, 2009
Kenyan mob kills famous geologist Campbell Bridges
Friday, 14 August 2009
Discoverer of the unique Tsavorite gemstone, the colourful geologist was killed in an massive ambush near his mine camp
“We are going to kill you all,’ shouted the huge mob of Kenyan ambushers as they attacked the Bridges father and son and their workers…
Nairobi – The Guardian reports that a large mob of black men, armed with bows and arrows, spears and machetes ambushed, attacked and stabbed to death world-famous geologist Campbell Bridges, 72, in southeastern Kenya.
He was the geologist who discovered tsavorite – and then proceeded to develop a thriving market for the unique gemstone, dealing through Tiffany’s in New York City.
John Leshimendoro said Bridges was killed on Tuesday after stopping to remove logs of thorn trees on the road as he drove to his camp.
In 1968, Bridges became the first to record the discovery of gemstone-quality tsavorite, in neighbouring Tanzania.
Bridges and Henry Platt, then deputy head of Tiffany jewellery company, named the gemstone after wildlife sanctuaries in southeastern Kenya. Tsavorite is much sought after - it varies from light to dark green and is only mined in Kenya and Tanzania.
His son Bruce and four Kenyan employees, were passengers in the truck. Bruce said the four workers were ‘cut to ribbons and I took a panga cut to the neck. It was an ambush’. They survived though.
Bruce Bridges blamed the attack on a dispute with local miners who, he said, were illegally digging for gems on the family's 600 hectare (1,482 acre) concession. Speaking from Nairobi, where he fled with his father's body, Bridges said the attack occurred as the party drove towards their mining camp.
"We found huge thorn trees blocking the road. Eight men with machetes, spears, clubs, knives, bows and arrows appeared, shouting 'We're going to kill you all!' Then more people came down the mountain, like ants – 20 or 30 of them."
Picture: Judith and Bruce Bridges, standing left of the table, sorting out the tsavorite gemstones discovered by Campbell Bridges at the Kenyan mine where he was slaughtered in a vicious ambush by a large mob, probably illegal miners.
Bridges said his father was stabbed before the attackers were driven back. "I looked down and he didn't look good, he was pale and I knew it was bad. I put him in the back of the truck and drove as fast as I could to the hospital," he said. His father was pronounced dead at a clinic in Voi.
Campbell Bridges, who worked for the Central Mining and Investment Corporation with many interests in Africa, was a colourful figure. He was credited with discovering tsavorite – a brilliant dark green gemstone – in the 1960s on the nearby border with Tanzania. The Guardian writes that ‘according to gem world mythology, he was walking in the countryside when a buffalo charged him and to save his life he leaped into a gully – where he noticed a gleam of green in a rocky outcrop. He was unable to extract a sample in the panic of the moment, was then transferred to another area, and it took him seven years to rediscover the gem, which is as hard as but rarer than emeralds.”
Kept a python, leopards instead of guard dogs… lived in a tree house…
His Tanzanian mines were nationalised in the 1970s, and he then moved his operations to Kenya (pictured left) – where he studied geological records and located tsavorite (right from a Tiffany’s catalogue) again.
Initially he lived in a tree house, and claimed to have set a python to watch over the first gems he found. He kept a pair of leopards instead of guard dogs. He was also a special consultant to the famous New York jewellers Tiffany & Co.
A UK Foreign Office spokesman confirmed his death on 11 August, noting: "As his immediate next of kin is American, the US officials are providing consular assistance. We are in close contact with them and offering our full support. British consular officials are liaising with the local authorities who have confirmed that an investigation is under way."