Los Angeles, CA LA Times article
Scottish gem dealer Campbell Bridges slain in Kenya
Bridges followed a risky career path over 50 years in the
African bush. He was stabbed to death by a machete-wielding gang
that allegedly coveted his profitable mining concession.
By Edmund Sanders
For decades, Scottish geologist and gem dealer Campbell Bridges
navigated the risks that came with mining precious stones in
At his camp deep in the Kenyan bush, he spent nights in a
treehouse to stay safe from wild animals. He used a python to
stand guard over his cache of colored gems and more than once
chased away marauders attempting to poach from his caves.
But Bridges’ life and adventurous career ended abruptly this
week when his truck was ambushed in southeastern Kenya by a mob
armed with spears, machetes, and bows and arrows. Police and
family members say the attackers appeared to be linked to a gang
seeking to seize control of Bridges’ lucrative mining concession.
Bridges died Tuesday of stab wounds, officials said. His son,
Bruce, and two Kenyan colleagues were injured in the attack.
In addition to his son, Bridges is survived by his wife, Judith,
and daughter, Laura, a law student in Chicago. Like Bruce
Bridges, they are U.S. citizens.
Bruce Bridges said his father had been fighting for three years
against a group of Kenyans – who he said were backed by local
government officials – seeking to drive him away.
After Kenyan mining officials this year upheld his father’s
rights to mine the land, the group turned to violence and
intimidation, including roadblocks, harassment and death threats,
Bruce Bridges said.
“They are just a bunch of thugs who want the resources,” he
His father’s repeated complaints to the local police were
ignored, Bridges said, including a plea shortly before Tuesday’s
assault. They had left the police station and were headed home to
his base near Voi when at least eight assailants attacked their
vehicle, he said.
“We know everyone who did this, by first and last name,” Bridges
“We reported it to the police, but they gave us no assistance.”
Charles Owino, a police spokesman, said he could not comment
because he had no on the case. Other police officials
told reporters that they were searching for suspects, but that no
arrests had been made as of Thursday.
In a career that spanned half a century, Campbell Bridges spent
most of his time digging in the caves and mountainsides of
Africa, including stints in South Africa, Zimbabwe (then known as
Rhodesia) and Tanzania. The son of a mining company geologist,
Bridges was among those who worked in the initial extraction and
marketing of the gemstone tanzanite in the 1960s. He worked as a
consultant for New York-based jeweler Tiffany & Co. in selling
the gems to U.S. customers.
He is credited with finding, in 1967, an equally rare green
gemstone called tsavorite. When Tanzania nationalized its mining
industry, Bridges moved his prospecting business to neighboring
Kenya, where he laid claim to a large deposit of the
green-specked rocks near the border with Tanzania. He named the
stones after Tsavo National Park, near where his company,
Tsavorite USA, mines and sells gems.
Family members expressed skepticism that Kenyan authorities
would prosecute those involved in the slaying and have asked the
U.S. and British embassies to launch their own inquiries.
Officials at both embassies said they were assisting the family,
but had no plans to get involved in the criminal investigation
unless asked by Kenyan authorities.
“We are closely following the investigation and hope that the
perpetrators will be brought to swift justice,” said Charley
Williams, spokeswoman for the British High Commission in
The attack comes amid what many see as a resurgence in violence,
crime and corruption in Kenya, which is struggling with a
sluggish economy and a stalled coalition government, formed as a
compromise after a disputed presidential election in late 2007.
With police officers who routinely seek bribes and an
overburdened court system, many crimes in Kenya are never
Despite prodding from the international community, the
government has yet to punish perpetrators in the riots and tribal
clashes that killed more than 1,000 people during the
Bruce Bridges said his father had grown increasingly worried
about Kenya’s political and social instability but did not expect
the threats against his business to turn so violent.
“He used to say that with the way things in Kenya were going, who
knows what might happen,” Bridges said. “He knew the risks. He
understood Africa. But to have something like this happen is just