January 3, 1980: Born Free author Joy Adamson murdered

Celebrated naturalist Joy Adamson, whose inspirational book Born Free was made into an Oscar-winning film, was murdered on this day in 1980.

Naturalist and author Joy Adamson, best known for her book Born Free, was found murdered in the Shaba National Reserve, Kenya, on this day in 1980.

Adamson’s tale of her experiences while raising an orphaned lion cub Elsa and releasing her back into the wild had become an international bestseller after its publication in 1960, and it was adapted into an award-winning film six years later.

She spent the rest of her life writing about her exploits and travelling the world raising money for and awareness of wildlife conservation efforts.

Her body was discovered by her assistant, Peter Morson, who mistakenly assumed she had been mauled to death by a lion - and his assumption was initially repeated by international media.

But within a few days it was reported that police deemed her fatal injuries too precise and bloodless to have been caused by an animal, and a murder investigation began.

Paul Nakware Ekai, a young labourer who had been fired by Adamson, was found guilty of the crime.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment at the pleasure of the Kenyan President, only escaping a death sentence as he was deemed to have been a minor at the time of the murder.

[September 4, 2006: 'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin killed by stingray while filming TV show]