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(Credit: Penguin / Press)

Film

Author of ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ wanted by Zambian police in relation to 1996 cold murder case

The murder mystery novel Where the Crawdads Sing was somewhat of a sensation when it was released back in 2018. Sony Pictures were quick to snap up the movie rights, and the Reese Witherspoon film is set to premiere this week. 

However, in light of the recent publicity, a long shadow has been cast over the author Delia Owens after claims that the Zambian police seek her for questioning over a brutal murder dating back to 1996. 

This story was brought to the fore by Atlantic Editor-in-Chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, who has studied the case for many years and claims that the husband-and-wife duo of Mark and Delia Owens, who spent years engaged in Elephant conservation in Zambia, are implicated in the murder. 

According to the report, throughout the 1990s, the Owens raised, trained, outfitted and commanded a brutal local militia force who protected the local wildlife with extreme prejudice. It is claimed that their measures went beyond mere conservation, and anyone deemed a threat was subject to reported kidnapping and torture by the group. 

Evidence for such tactics came to the fore in a 1996 ABC News documentary called Turning Point. During the filming, the crew encountered the interrogation of an unknown man alleged to have been a hunter who was then fatally shot in the head as he lay on the ground. In the intervening years, Mark Owens has been implicated as the killer by members of the film crew and Goldberg alike. 

The local authorities believe that Owens, “with the help of his scouts, placed the victim’s body in a cargo net, attached it to his helicopter, and then dropped it into a nearby lagoon.” This means that no body has ever been located and the investigation has been hindered by a lack of material evidence. As the Zambian police commissioner concluded in his statement: “The bush is the perfect place to commit murder … The animals eat the evidence.”

Mark and Delia Owens relocated back to the States not long after the incident and have been separated for many years. Nevertheless, the Zambian authorities would still like to question both of them over their activities while performing conservation work. 

Mark Owens’ whereabouts are currently unconfirmed, but it is reported that he is living in Idaho whereby neighbours believed they had identified him after he aggressively lectured them on the importance of bear conservation in the area. As of yet though, he has not come forward. 

Currently, there is no extradition agreement between the United States and Zambia so it is unclear what will come of this call for questioning, but nevertheless, the police commissioner has requested to speak to the successful author and her son as they believe they “should be interrogated as a possible witness, co-conspirator, and accessory to felony crimes.” Delia Owens is yet to comment on the matter.

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