An Ontario woman who died last week while on a volunteer mission to help children in Tanzania was slain in a machete attack, say local police.

Tanzanian police told CBC News that an arrest has been made in the death of Susan Wells, 41, who was on her sixth trip to the East African country.

Wells, was found Nov. 28 in a field outside the city of Arusha days after her arrival in Tanzania. Arusha’s regional police Cmdr. Liberatus Sabas said that she had been attacked with a machete.


Susan Wells of Collingwood, Ont., is seen in a photo from with orphans during a 2008 trip to Tanzania. (

Sabas believes that the suspect, Joseph Kimaro, picked Wells up from the airport on Nov. 25, and that he was a street youth she had helped in the past.

"Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the Canadian citizen who passed away in Tanzania," said Jessica Seguin, a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

"Canadian consular officials in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, are in contact with local authorities to gather additional information and are providing consular assistance to the family and friends as required."

Wells was not affiliated with any organization on this trip.

Violent crime against volunteers 'rare' in Tanzania

Projects Abroad, another Canadian aid group that works in the region — one that Wells has not worked with — has expressed concern about Wells's death.

Robert Levine, director at Projects Abroad, said that violent crime against volunteers is rare in Tanzania. Wells had been to the area multiple times, but Levine said he still would advise volunteers not to work in the region alone.

"There is additional support. There is staff there on the ground in case there is an emergency, whether it be health-related or otherwise," said Levine.

Wells's family did not comment, but family friend and travel partner Jennifer Forman told CBC News that Wells had a well-established group of colleagues and friends in the area.

"Susan was the most kind, generous and thoughtful person I'll ever hope to meet. For those of us lucky enough to know her, she provided us with a lifetime's worth of comfort, joy and happy memories that will help to fill the deep void in our hearts," said Forman.

Sabas told CBC News that Wells's body is being returned to Canada and that police expect formal charges to be laid soon.

With files from Steven D'Souza