A HAMPSHIRE man has been stabbed to death while birdwatching in the South African bush.

Simon Milliken, 60, was confronted by an armed attacker, and after trying to create a diversion to save his friend, was found stabbed to death the following day.

Milliken was a well-respected musician in the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra in Durban, after moving to South Africa 30 years ago.

Having grown up in Fawley and Brockenhurst, he then moved to Ampfield, where his mother and brother still live.

On August 31, Milliken was birdwatching with guest conductor Perry So in the Burman Bush Reserve in Durban, when a knifeman appeared.

Milliken and So, 36, fled in different directions, and So was robbed of his bag. As the attacker fled after Milliken, So searched for help.

It wasn't until the following morning that Milliken was found stabbed to death on a pathway, with police still hunting for his attacker.

Fellow musician Cathy Peacock said: "What has happened leaves me beyond words, trying to process this terrible tragedy.

"Simon was always such a delight to be with, I loved him for his wry wit, for his whole-hearted enjoyment of life, not least his passion for opera, and for his kindly interest in those around him."

Bongani Tembe, the orchestra's artistic director, told a national newspaper: "Perry So believes Simon did his best to defend him and told him to run in one direction while Simon attempted to escape a different way and took the attacker away from him."

Milliken moved to Durban 30 years ago, and was born in Fawley. He developed an interest in ringing bells through his father, who was Reverend Michael Milliken, rector of All Saints Church Fawley.

He studied at Brockenhurst College and played with the Hampshire Youth Orchestra. He joined the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic in 1985 and was appointed the double bassist in 1992. His mother and brother still live in Ampfield.

On Sunday, Winchester Cathedral rang out its bells for an hour in Mr Milliken's memory.