Arrest as mugged diplomat with NZ links loses eye

GEORGE FERGUSSON: The former British High Commissioner to New Zealand was attacked as he was walking to a dinner party in London.
GEORGE FERGUSSON: The former British High Commissioner to New Zealand was attacked as he was walking to a dinner party in London.

A diplomat with extensive links to Wellington has lost an eye in a violent daylight mugging in a London cemetery.

George Fergusson, 56, the former British High Commissioner to New Zealand, was attacked as he walked to a dinner party on Friday evening (British time).

This morning (NZ time), police said they had arrested a 29-year-old man on suspicion of robbery and he was being held at a west London police station.

Police said that they believe the attacker had no motive except to steal money.

Mr Fergusson, who had recently been appointed Governor of Bermuda, was searching for the address on his BlackBerry when he was punched in the eye and knocked to the ground, The Sunday Times reported. The mugger tried to steal his phone, but fled empty handed, leaving the career diplomat bleeding from his eye.

He phoned his wife, Margaret, before walking into a Charing Cross hospital.

He had surgery on Saturday, but it was too late to save his eye.

Mr Fergusson's wife, a senior official at the British Council, told friends: "He was attacked at half-past seven on Friday evening. He had been out of town for a meeting and was meeting me at the dinner party," the newspaper reported.

"He was going through the cemetery when he pulled out his BlackBerry to check the address.

"The attacker thumped him straight in the eye, knocked him to the ground and knocked him around a bit."

Mr Fergusson served as British High Commissioner to New Zealand from 2006 to 2010.

His father, Sir Bernard Fergusson, and grandfather, Sir Charles Fergusson, both served as New Zealand governor-generals and both his great-grandfathers were governors.

The former St Mark's School pupil, became an instant hit with Kiwis when he celebrated his 1962 arrival as a seven-year-old by performing a forward roll on the front lawn of Government House.

He was made a chief of the Ngati Raukawa tribe in Otaki and his three daughters have Maori middle names.

British High Commissioner Vicki Treadell told The Dominion Post news of the attack was "unpleasant and shocking".

"He's not someone who would put himself in a situation normally to find himself the victim of an attack."

Mrs Treadell said she had emailed a message of support to his wife.

"He's considerate, intelligent and a gentleman," she said. "We wish him a speedy recovery."

Days after the respected diplomat and his family arrived in New Zealand in 2006, valuable antique jewellery was stolen from their historic Homewood residence, in Karori where they lived.

Brendon Murray McMichael, 31, handed himself in after learning about the couple's emotional attachment to the possessions from media reports. He admitted receiving stolen property.

The Fergussons were also struck by tragedy in 2005 when their son Alexander, 20, was fatally injured after being hit by a taxi in London's Piccadilly.

-Fairfax Media/AP