A Dinosaur Called Sue

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Sue stands 13 feet high at the hips and 42 feet long from head to tail. Her weight is 7 tons, and her skull alone weighs 600 pounds. Her teeth are 7 1/2 to 12 inches long.

Sue MacGregor's fascination with the story of Sue, the T Rex began a few years ago when she visited the Field Museum in Chicago, and came face to face with her namesake. In this programme, she recalls the drama of her discovery, her eventual sale for $87 Million and the custody battles that raged around her.

In the summer of 1990, fossil-hunter Sue Hendrickson was in South Dakota, working for the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research. Whilst waiting for a flat tyre to be replaced, she stumbled across the fossils of what would be the largest, most complete Tyrannosaurus rex yet discovered. Sue - as the dinosaur was nicknamed - soon sparked an ownership debate that continued for five years, and that meant Sue was not unveiled to public exhibition for an entire decade.

The story of the Sue debate began when Maurice Williams, a private rancher in the South Dakota region, invited Peter Larson, the president of a commercial geology company, onto his property to look for fossils. It was on this land that Sue was found. Larson claimed to have bought Sue with a $5,000 cheque- but Williams denied that he reached any sort of agreement with Larson over the sale of the dinosaur.

Further complicating the debate was the fact that Sue was discovered within the boundary of a Sioux Indian reservation and Maurice Williams' land, like that of many American Indians, was held in trust by the US government.

In 1992, the government stepped into the argument with a search warrant. National Guardsmen and FBI agents raided the Black Hills Institute, removing Sue and many other specimens and documents.


Producer: David Prest
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.
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