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Inspiration for Dundee character shot, killed

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 gunfight 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.

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

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 was followed by a 1988 sequel.

Ansell, a blond-haired, blue-eyed man who resembled Hogan, was named the Northern Territory's 1988 Territorian of the Year for inspiring the film that put the Australian Outback on the map.

Ansell 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.

Financial difficulties forced him to sell his Melaleuca ranch in the early 1990s, according to the local news agency the Australian Associated Press. He blamed the Northern Territory government for not compensating him properly during a disease eradication program that cost him 3,000 head of cattle.

He also was said to be bitter that he never profited financially from the two movies he inspired.

In 1992, Ansell was convicted of stealing cattle and fined for assaulting another rancher.

Tuesday's attack left police baffled and searching fruitlessly for a motive. "If this person wanted to escape he could have easily done that. He was a bushman," Daulby said.