Ugandan dictator Idi Amin's enforcer Bob Astles dies at Wimbledon home
A man nicknamed the “White Rat of Uganda” – who may have been complicit in some of the horrific atrocities during dictator Idi Amin’s regime – died recently at his Wimbledon home.
Bob Astles, the head of Uganda’s anti-corruption squad in the 1970s, quietly passed away in his sleep at home in Kenilworth Avenue on December 29.
His death went unreported until his after funeral, which was attended by a small group of friends and family on January 14.
Born in 1924 into a working class family in Netley, Hampshire, Astles enlisted in the army at age 16 and was sent to east Africa, where he stayed after leaving his retirement from service.
In 1952 he stayed in Uganda, working as a foreman to a building contractor, but began working for the Ugandan government as the country declared independence from Britain in 1962, allying himself with Milton Obote, the country’s first leader.
He became a propagandist for the Government but switched sides to support Idi Amin when he seized power in 1971, eventually becoming the head of the anti-corruption unit of the Ugandan police.
He earned the nickname of “the White Rat” for his allegiance to the despot, who murdered about 300,000 people during his eight year tyranny.
In a rare interview, he once said: "Scared of [Amin]? My hair would go on end but I was a fighter. The last time he arranged for me to be killed, he sent for my wife and said, 'Go and look at him for the last time.'
"He was a mad man obviously."
He always denied any crimes and said of his time in Uganda: "I loved it, and when my minister asked me to do something, I'd do it ... And I'd do it all again. Definitely."
During this time, in which he was charged with cracking down on the smuggling of coffee, several innocent people were alleged to have been murdered. Astles would be arrested on murder charges after Amin was toppled in 1979, when he fled to Kenya.
He was extradited back to Uganda to stand trial for beating a fisherman to death but was acquitted in October 1981.
But he was kept in jail for another four years before his release in 1985, when he returned to England and settled in Wimbledon, from where he apparently still kept in touch with Amin, who died in 2003.
He lived in the upmarket, £1m home with historian Betty Julius. His role in the dictatorship was partly the inspiration for the doctor adviser character Nicholas Garrigan, in the 1998 novel The Last King of Scotland by journalist Giles Foden.
In 2006 this story was portrayed in a movie, in which Garrigan is played by James McAvoy and Amin by Forest Whitaker.