The murders made headlines around the world. Here’s how The Washington Post reported the story
Guerrillas Slay 12 at Rhodesian Mission School
Rhodesian black nationalist guerrillas axed, bayonetted and clubbed eight British missionaries and four of their children to death at an isolated mission school here in the worst mass murder of church representtives and Europeans in Rhodesia’s increasingly grisly civil war.
One other woman missionary was dragged into the bush and assaulted, but was still alive when she was
found a short distance from the other victims yesterday morning. She was taken to a hospital in Umtali, where she was reportedly in serious condition. [Mary Fisher never recovered and died several days later.]
The massacre took place Friday when a group of about 29 guerrillas visited the Emmanuel Secondary School in the heart of the mist-shrouded and heavily wooded mountains 10 miles southeast of Umtali on the eastern border of Rhodesia.
The school is run by the Elim Mission of a Pentacostal church based in Cheltenham, England. The mission is active in 10 countries, including four in Africa, and operates three mission sites in Rhodesia.
The killings were the most gruesome in a series of attacks on Rhodesian mission stations that have left 33 missionaries and members of their families dead.
It appears that the guerrillas’ main objective is to close the schools as part of a campaign to break down government control over the rural population. Many missionaries believe, however, that the guerrillas are Marxists seeking primarily to undermine Christian influence in the country.
The murders took place after the guerrillas had given political talks to the 200 pupils attending the
school. An axe was left in the back of a woman wearing hair curlers. Several victims had had their faces bashed in, while one man had been bayonetted repeatedly in the back. Four of the five women appeared to have been raped, possibly when already dead or unconscious. One woman lay on her back with three children in pajamas and bathrobes huddled around her.
One of the three men had his hands tied behind his back before being killed, apparently by an axe. A short twisted tree branch lay near one group of five bodies. Rhodesian soldiers at the scene said it had been used to club some of the victims. There was no sign of a struggle.