An attorney familiar with the January death of an Italian expat in Malacatos in Loja Province, says his death was a suicide, not the results of injuries suffered during a home invasion.
Mauro Burzio, an Italian writer, photographer and anthropologist, died January 23 in a Loja hospital, six weeks after a violent home invasion in which he suffered a serious head injury.
The attorney, who prefers to remain anonymous, says Burzio’s death was a suicide caused by the ingestion of medicine used to treat cancer in animals. The attorney says the cause of death was confirmed in an autopsy, adding that earlier reports that Burzio had died as a result of injuries suffered in the home invasion were incorrect.
According to the attorney, Burzio recognized the voice of one his assailants during the December 10 attack and provided police with the name. No arrests were made in the case, however, and the lack arrests upset Burzio.
The attorney said that Burzio had hired a private security guard, who was not present during the attack, and was apparently concerned for his safety.
Elinor Hansen, an acquaintance of Burzio, said that home invasions have been a concern of expats living rural areas of Loja Province for years. “Just after I moved to Vilcabamba, 10 years ago, there were two violent attacks on North Americans, one south of Vilcabamba and one near Malacatos,” she said. “After that, two expats I knew hired armed guards to protect their property. One even built a guard tower on his driveway,” she said, adding that she is aware of a number of other attacks over the years.
“It’s really sad,” says Hansen, who recently relocated to Cuenca. “It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world but many of the expats live in fear. The police say there are more attacks against foreigners there than any other place in Ecuador but they almost never make arrests.”
Obituaries in Italian newspapers reported that Burzio was a scholar of primitive cultures who had written about and photographed isolated communities in Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Tanzania, and Australia. In particular, he was known for his popular book that retraced the journey of 19th century explorer David Livingstone in search of the headwaters of the Nile River.