Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dian Fossey Life and Death

Investigation

Wayne McGuire
Wayne McGuire

Her murder made headlines for weeks, and Rwandan government officials felt intense pressure to make an arrest. Soon, the authorities fingered two convenient foils, Emmanuel Rwelekana, an African guide whom Fossey had fired, and Wayne McGuire, a young student from Oklahoma who was working at Karisoke.

Few outside Rwanda took either suspect seriously.

The U.S. government worked out a backroom deal with Rwanda that allowed McGuire to return home, although he was convicted in absentia by a kangaroo court. Rwelekana was held in a Rwandan prison for nine months. Authorities reported that he hanged himself in September 1986.

Fossey became news again in 1988 with release of a film version of Gorillas in the Mist, starring Sigourney Weaver. It gave fresh impetus to a search for the legitimate killer, and the name of a new suspect began to emerge — a man with connections to the highest echelon of the Rwanda government.

Video cover: Gorillas in the Mist
Video cover: Gorillas in the
Mist

Informants whispered that the murder had been ordered by Protais Zigiranyirazo, the brother-in-law of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana.

Known as "Mr. Z," Zigiranyirazo had been prefect of the Ruhengeri province of northwestern Rwanda from 1974-89. Both the Parc des Volcans and Fossey's Karisoke Research Center were located in Mr. Z's territory.

Like many Rwandan officials, Zigiranyirazo was involved in a series of businesses on the side that had made him very wealthy in a nation of abject poverty. By the early 1990s, international authorities had concluded that Mr. Z's financial interests in the gorilla tourism had provoked him to hire assassins to kill Fossey.

But stunning events in Rwanda would delay justice for Dian Fossey.

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