Photographer says Mugabe's wife beat him

HONG KONG Mon Jan 19, 2009 1:38pm GMT

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace arrive for the burial of National Hero, Gordon Tapson Sibanda at National Heroes Acre in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe December 23 2008. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace arrive for the burial of National Hero, Gordon Tapson Sibanda at National Heroes Acre in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe December 23 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo

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HONG KONG (Reuters) - A Hong Kong-based photographer who said Robert Mugabe's wife assaulted him last week was undecided Monday about whether to press charges against Zimbabwe's first lady.

Known as the "First Shopper" in Zimbabwe for her luxury shopping sprees, Grace Mugabe was on a low-key visit to the former British colony, known for its gleaming luxury malls, with members of her family when she was photographed by Richard Jones.

Jones who was working for the Sunday Times at the time, said she erupted into a "wild rage" and ordered her bodyguard to hold him down while she attacked and punched his face.

"When I heard what the assignment was, of course it's not a regular assignment to try and tail Grace Mugabe," Jones told Reuters.

"Everybody knows the reputation her husband has, but of course it was completely shocking when it happened. It came out of the blue," Jones said of the attack which took place outside a luxury hotel on Hong Kong's Kowloon peninsula.

"There were a lot of cuts and abrasions and they're still visible," said Jones who needed medical attention at the time.

A Hong Kong police spokeswoman would only say an "assault occasioning actual bodily harm" had occurred last Thursday. No arrests were made and the case is still under investigation.

Once prosperous Zimbabwe is facing total economic collapse and rampant inflation, where prices double every day and more than 2,000 people have died in a cholera epidemic.

Jones said he hadn't yet decided whether to press charges against Mugabe who has already reportedly left Hong Kong.

"I really don't know how the legal system works in Hong Kong ... I probably will be going back to the police station in the next couple of days and see how it goes," Jones said.

"I don't have a next step, you know. I'll let justice take its course and the police have been very good and I don't think they're going to sweep the thing under the carpet," he added.

The Zimbabwe embassy has not commented on the police investigation.

Mugabe left Hong Kong to return to Zimbabwe, the Sunday Times said.

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Bill Tarrant)

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