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Where the Crawdads sing author accused of murder

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Delia wanted for questioning in murder of Zambian man

Delia Owens, New York Times best-selling novelist and film star Where the Crawdads sing, is the subject of a murder investigation in Zambia with which she was involved 30 years ago. In 1986, Delia and her husband Mark moved to Zambia because they had a revelation that they needed to take action to save the elephants. Given that they were both graduates in zoology, it stands to reason that they had a stronger affinity for animals.

Controversy surrounds best-selling author Delia Owens after she is wanted for questioning in connection with the murder of a Zambian man.
Photo courtesy | autumn kranz

Their love of animals drove them halfway around the world to join an anti-poaching activist group that trained scouts to assassinate elephant poachers. The poachers were native black Zambians.

Over time, things darkened and Mark became more militant. According to Goldberg, who is now editor of The Atlantic, Mark Owens took charge of a group of 60 game scouts who hunted poachers by bribing them with guns, weapons and money. There is no evidence that Delia herself went out to kill, but instead co-directed operations with her husband Mark. In the end, they felt so accomplished that they decided it would be a great idea for publicity and that’s when ABC News was introduced.

In 1995, ABC News filmed a segment of their Turning Point program, and they filmed the murder of a poacher. Witnesses say Mark Owens killed the poacher by shooting him first. Although poaching is morally wrong, it is debatable whether killing a poacher is justified, the segment explained. The victim was alone and there was no clear indication that any animals had been killed. When ABC aired the program on television, they neglected to contextualize the murder.

“During this mission, we would witness the ultimate price paid by a suspected poacher,” said presenter Meredith Vieira in images.

Fast forward, the Zambian government took notice of Owens’ operations and expelled them from Zambia. Delia and her husband fled to America. The Owens returned to America without consequences, and a few years later Delia finished writing her book. Delia’s public relations team has been doing damage to contain the scandal since it surfaced.

“There is no statute of limitations for murders in Zambia,” the country’s director of public prosecutions, Lillian Shawa-Siyuni, told Goldberg. “They are all wanted for questioning in this case, including Delia Owens.”

In Delia’s novel, elements of her time in Africa were written into her novel. For example, the protagonist of Crawdad. Sunday Justice, the name of the prison cat in the book, is also the name of the cook who served the Owens in Zambia. In “The Eye of the Elephant”, Mark Owens describes a conversation Delia had with this cook. The current Sunday Justice, in her words, “always dreamed of arguing with someone who flew into the sky with an airplane”. She shares how she so kindly explained how far the stars are from Earth when he asked if you get close to the stars when flying in an airplane.

But Sunday Justice’s account of this interaction is at odds with Owens’: Sunday Justice laughed when asked about this alleged discussion. After working for the Owenses, he went on to work for the Zambian Air Force. He had often flown both as a child and as an adult.

Owens proclaims that she is innocent and has no involvement in the shooting.

“I wasn’t involved,” she said in an interview with Jeffery Goldberg. “There was never a case, there was nothing.”

The Owens are wanted for questioning by the Zambian government, but no charges have been brought so far.