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Murder, Witchcraft and the Killing of Wildlife (Hardback)

Memoirs of a Police Officer in the Heart of Africa

Military > Memoirs P&S History > True Crime

By Stephen R. Matthews
Imprint: Pen & Sword True Crime
Pages: 231
Illustrations: 44 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526764072
Published: 6th December 2019


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Stephen R. Matthew’s first police posting near the Northern Rhodesian border with the Congo coincided dramatically with a time of horrific ethnic cleansing in the Belgian Congo area. At just twenty-one years old, Stephen was knifed, ambushed, stoned, shot and wounded by bow and arrow. His hand was broken several times.

Action-packed, unadulterated stories of those frantic and dangerous years are meticulously detailed here. This young police inspector found himself confronted by actions and terrifying events well beyond his understanding, whilst serving in the elite police force. He found that the police were fighting on two fronts; trying to protect the vulnerable citizens of the country whilst at the same time endeavouring to stop the slaughter of wildlife.

A stand-out, unique and comprehensive book, Murder, Witchcraft and the Killing of Wildlife depicts dramatic accounts of witchcraft-murders and cannibalism. Highly dangerous solo investigations are detailed, incorporating incidents of black magic, kidnapping, arson, gun-running and people trafficking.

"I have just finished Murder, Witchcraft and Killing of Wildlife, my word what a terrific book!
I was honestly gripped with each story and would be thinking of the book in the day time and looking forward to reading it at night.
Everything is so vivid that one can feel the heat and almost touch the tall grass (and taste the cold beer after each successful op.!)."

Tristan Tull

5 Stars,

I highly recommend this great read.

Goodreads, Bill Reilly

An deftly written, impressively informative, and inherently riveting read from first page to last, "Murder, Witchcraft and the Killing of Wildlife: Police Investigations at the Heart of Africa" is an extraordinary and detailed memoir that will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to both community and college/university library.

Midwest Book Review

I had a good time reading this book, it was a interesting topic that had me hooked from from the beginning.

NetGalley, Kay McLeer

.. An illuminating, enthralling and often macabre and shocking, story of a young family man in what is now Zambia. A first-class memoir of a way of life long gone, a distant glimpse of life, when not only the British Army were deployed across the Empire but young men, some ladies, lived adventurous and frequently perilous existence policing well outside any comfort zone. Just read the story of the young inspector and local women saving children from a crocodile, the policeman losing a leg. They were both awarded the GM. It would be interesting to know where all these police officers, these adventurous souls, went as the Empire reduced with job opportunities disappearing. So many questions, so many opportunities for fascinating research and publications.

Robert Bartlett, September 2020

This is a simple message to tell you how much I enjoyed the book 'Murder, Witchcraft, and the Killing of Wildlife'. I saw a blurb for it in, I believe, The New York Times, and upon that I bought a copy. I really enjoyed it and loved reading about the tales of that particular time period in Northern Rhodesia. Of course I really enjoyed the tales about Doberman, Alex.

Tom Graves

Each in its own way, these books track important changes in the legal systems that deal with heinous crimes against men, women and children. So, what’s left — animals? Well, yes. Stephen R. Matthews covers that ground in MURDER, WITCHCRAFT AND THE KILLING OF WILDLIFE: Police Investigations at the Heart of Africa. It’s tough to compete with witch doctors, gun runners, government assassins, mercenaries and assorted other strong personalities of that ilk, but the author’s magnificent Doberman, modestly named Alex, comes off best in this rattling good memoir by a former British police officer writing of his colorful career while on assignment in Congo. As a visitor to the police station patiently explains his complaint to the desk sergeant: “You know, this is all about witchcraft and of course, the Bwana’s big brown dog Alex knows who did it.” I mean, what’s not to love about a story featuring a canine revered for his courage, sagacity and insight into human malfeasance?

In between solving murders and settling village grievances, Matthews is frequently called upon to deal with a variety of local scams, like the self-serving hustle of a mortician who has convinced a woman that her dear departed husband would be restored to life if she would have sex with him — the mortician, not the dead husband. But the soul of the book resides in the author’s efforts to stem the evil practices of slaughtering endangered wildlife and dealing with foreign agents in the dirty business of smuggling animal parts.
Despite his best attempts, Matthews could never shake off the way the locals saw him, as a white witch doctor with the ability to speak with the spirits of the dead and place spells against the living. There’s a story — several, in fact — about what led to this perception, which proves that, at the very least, the author learned a thing or two about telling a tale.

New York Times.

I was intrigued by this book because it is not often I find a book that directly references my career. I knew I had to read it. It held my interest & was deeply descriptive. I would definitely recommend this to my colleagues so they can draw comparisons & contrasts between Ofc. Matthews' & their own positions.

NetGalley, Dominique Clemente

This book tells the story of the author's career as a Police Officer in Africa. But this isn't like any other Police memoir out there. It's packed full of unbelievable, amazing, and sometimes downright bizarre tales of cases he worked on and events that happened. We often hear about the constant same old same old in the UK where Police Officers are dealing with repeat offenders or drunken behaviour in the town centres so it's incredibly interesting to read Stephen's experiences working a broad range of cases such as those involving black magic, people smuggling, attempted assassination and more!
There were some points where I would have liked the author to go into a bit more detail but I also appreciate that in memoirs, especially those that cover vast periods of time, there has to be a cut off point otherwise the book would go on forever. And sometimes the stories seemed a little chaotic and difficult to follow but I gradually realised that at the time of them happening things probably seemed a little chaotic so it was likely to be a realistic portrayal of how Stephen felt.
Stephen writes in a way that someone would tell a story, with all the natural tangencies and side stories. It reminded me of how my Grandad would tell stories. And it was nice to imagine the author sitting comfortably telling a younger generation all bout his time as a Police Officer in Africa. This book had me laughing out loud in some places and tearful in others. It is everything a memoir like this should be. Well done to the author :)

NetGalley, Rebecca Bamber

Article 'Out of Africa' as featured by

Guernsey Press, 19th December 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was such an interesting read, as it was a raw account of what it is like to be a police officer in Africa. It is nothing like being one in America. This was well written and an enjoyable read.

NetGalley, Cristie Underwood

The subtitle ‘Memoirs of a Police Officer in the Heart of Africa’ sums up the content of this work of true crime nonfiction. Matthews was only 21 in 1960 when he took up a post in Northern Rhodesia as an Assistant Inspector in the regional police force. He writes: “I was soon to be catapulted into a world of political unrest, with the serious undercurrents of witchcraft, murder and the continuous onslaught against the country’s precious wildlife, which unfortunately still carries on to the present day.”

Many of the cases he recounted were harrowing and gruesome though there were also humorous moments and a clearly a strong sense of camaraderie within his team.

Matthews does assume that his readers appreciate that witchcraft, black magic, and their practitioners were (and are) a part of everyday reality in the region, intertwined with traditional religious beliefs. I do have a passing familiarity with the subject and appreciated that he reported his experiences with sensitivity and didn’t sensationalise.

Overall, a fascinating memoir and an intense read.

NetGalley, Vivienne O'Regan

As a fan of safari type books, I very much enjoyed this new take on a much read topic. It was fascinating to see not only the survival aspect, but the modern political climate as well. It is most definitely a must-read for any armchair adventurer.

NetGalley, Holly Gillum

Matthews gives us an in depth look at things happening at the Rhodesia (Zambia) border. There is a lot of detail, and some of it could be considered geared towards more mature readers. But I think this book would be good for anyone who wants to read about a bit of history in Africa. One thing that stood out for me, as someone who is fascinated with true crime podcasts, was the talk on cannibalism. I've only ever read one other non-fiction book about this specific act. And honestly, it creeped me right out. But the author delivers it in a way that is truthful and genuine. A "this is just how it is" take.

Informative, fascinating and even a little gruesome at times, but well worth the read.

NetGalley, Jennifer Harney

This is a pretty fascinating book. It delves into real life experiences that are very harrowing to say the least of an investigator that deducted himself to o solving brutal crimes involving witchcraft and black magic in the heart of Africa. It is almost unfathomable to consider that things of this nature actually occur and the bravery and perseverance it took o delve into solving theses crimes. Very in-depth and intense. I received this book from NetGalley for an honest review and if you like true crimes concerning the occult I recommend this book. It is graphic and disturbing at times so please keep in mind it is a dark and grisly subject matter.

NetGalley, Richelle Rodarte

About Stephen R. Matthews

Stephen was born in Guernsey shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War and later illegally deported to concentration camps in Germany with his family. After these horrendous events, Stephen and his family returned to Guernsey where he was educated at Elizabeth College.
Stephen went on to join the Northern Rhodesia Police in 1959, with the express purpose of helping to Africanise the force prior to independence. His investigations took him over a great deal of the country, investigating horrendous and dangerous crimes, and securing more than 125 convictions for wildlife poaching.
The recipient of a plethora of awards and commendations, Stephen married Dr Xue Fen Matthews and now spends much of his time living in both the UK and China.

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