'Real' Crocodile Dundee Dies

A rugged Australian rancher whose feats of survival in the Outback inspired the movie character Crocodile Dundee was killed in a shootout with police, officials said Wednesday.

From his hiding place in the bushes along a highway, Rodney William Ansell, 44, ambushed and killed Sgt. Glen Huitson on Tuesday, police said. Another officer returned fire, killing Ansell during the confrontation, 30 miles south of the Northern Territory capital of Darwin.

His barefoot body, found with two high-powered rifles, did not carry any identification, police said.

Authorities had spent the previous 12 hours searching for a man who had attacked a nearby house Monday night, injuring two people. Assistant police commissioner John Daulby said Ansell was likely responsible for that attack as well.

The attack left police baffled and searching fruitlessly for a motive and brought a dramatic conclusion to the life of a man whose survival instincts and rough wilderness manner made him famous here as a symbol of Australian toughness.

Ansell became a local hero in 1977 after being swept out to sea and landing on a small, deserted island, where he was stranded for two months with little more than a rifle and his two dogs. He survived by shooting sharks and buffalo for food and drinking their blood to stay hydrated, since there was no potable water on the island.

Only a timely visit by an Aboriginal tribe saved him.

Â"You must believe me, it was not that big a deal,Â" he said in subsequent media interviews that were reprinted Thursday in The Australian newspaper.

His exploits were celebrated in his book and in a documentary film, both called To Fight the Wild.

Ansell's story sparked actor and writer Paul Hogan's imagination and inspired him, Ken Shadie and John Cornell to write a film about an Outback superstar. Crocodile Dundee, which starred Hogan as the title character, became an international comedy hit in 1986, and earned its three writers an Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay.

Much of the movie's humor about how an Australian bushman would react to life in the big city was inspired by Ansell's book tour in Sydney.

Ansell reportedly insisted on sleeping in his sleeping bag in the five-star Sebel Townhouse and was mystified by the bidet in his room, a scene recreated in the movie, which was followed by a 1988 sequel.

Ansell, a blond-haired, blue-eyed man who resembled Hogan, was pleasant but intense, a crack shot and a tough bushman who hunted buffalo in a remote region in northern Australia in the 1980s, said an old acquaintance, Chips Mackinolty.

But Ansell's fortunes fell sharply in the past decade. Beset by financial difficulties, Ansell was convicted in 1992 of stealing cattle and fined for assaulting another rancher.

On Monday night, police responded to reports that a man had fired shots at locals, blowing the index finger off on man and injuring another struck by shards of glass from a window shattered by a bullet, according to AAP.

About 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, two police officers were preparing to dismantle a roadblock on Stuart Highway that they had set up to capture the unidentified attacker, when a motorist stopped to ask for directions.

Suddenly shots flew from a roadside bush, injuring the motorist in the back and piercing a gap in Huitson's bulletproof vest. His partner returned fire, killing Ansell.

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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