Where the Crawdads Sing author accused of murder

Delia wanted for questioning for the murder of a Zambian man

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

Controversy surrounds the Best Selling author Delia Owens after she is wanted for questioning in involvement with the murder of a Zambian man.
Photo Courtesy | Autumn Kranz

Their love of animals moved them halfway around the world to join an anti-poaching activist group that trained scouts to assassinate elephant poachers. The poachers were the native Black Zambian people. 

 Overtime, things got darker, and Mark became more militant. According to Goldberg, who is now the editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, Mark Owens took charge of a group of 60 game scouts that hunted poachers by bribing them with firearms, weapons, and money. There is no evidence that Delia herself went out killing, rather she co-ran operations with her husband Mark. They ultimately, they felt so accomplished that they decided it would be a great idea for some publicity and that is when ABC News was brought in. 

In 1995, ABC News filmed a segment on their program Turning Point, and they captured on camera the killing of a poacher. Witnesses claim that Mark Owens killed the poacher by shooting him first. Although poaching is morally bad, it is questionable whether killing a poacher is justified, the segment discussed. The victim was alone, and there were no obvious indications that any animals had been killed. When ABC aired the program on television, they neglected to contextualize the murder. 

“On this mission, we would witness the ultimate price paid by a suspected poacher,” anchor Meredith Vieira narrates over footage.

Fast forward, the Zambian government became aware of the Owens operations and expelled them out of Zambia. Delia and her husband fled to America. The Owens returned to America with no consequences, and a few years later, Delia finished writing her book. Delia’s PR team have been doing damage control to contain the scandal since it resurfaced. 

“There is no statute of limitations on murder 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 in her novel. For instance, Crawdad’s protagonist. Sunday Justice, the name of the jailhouse cat in the book, is also the name of the cook who served the Owens’s in Zambia. In “The Eye of the Elephant,” Mark Owens describes a conversation Delia had with this cook. The actual Sunday Justice, in her words, “always longed to chat to someone who has flown up in the sky with a plane.” She talks about how she so sweetly explained how far stars are from Earth when he inquired whether you get close to the stars when you fly in an airplane. 

But Sunday Justice’s account of this interaction disagrees with Owens’: Sunday Justice laughed when questioned about this supposed discussion. After working for the Owens’s, he continued to work for the Zambian Air Force. He had frequently flown both as a child and an adult. 

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

“I was not 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 filed thus far.

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