CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Prime Minister Hendrick Verwoerd was assassinated today in Parliament by a six-foot white messenger who stabbed him repeatedly in the neck and chest with two silver daggers.
Verwoerd would have been 65 on Thursday. He had returned to Parliament from lunch when a young messenger identified as Dimitrio Tsafendls, of Greek descent, approached his desk and plunged a knife repeatedly into his neck as the premier half rose to meet him.
His assailant was identified as Dimitrio Tsafendas, a hulking six-footer of Greek-Portuguese descent who came here recently from Portuguese Mozambique.
Even as he was dragged from the chamber Tsafendas shrieked "Where is that bastard? I will get that bastard."
Shortly before the assassination, Tsafendas hid refused to run an errand, saying, "I have to do something."
Verwoerd had Just returned from lunch when Tsafendas approached the government bench. Verwoerd rose as If to speak and Tsafendas set upon him with the six-inch blades before the horrified eyes of parliament.
THE ASSASSIN then struck with his knife at Minister of Sport and Tourism Frank Waring, sitting near Verwoerd, but the blade only slashed Waring's trousers.
While a doctor tried to revive the dying Verwoerd with mouth to mouth respiration other M. P.' s seized Tsafendas and pinned him to the floor. Tsafendas kept striking back at Cas Greyling, a Nationalist M. P. who was sitting on his chest.
Verwoerd' s wife Betsy was brought into the chamber after the stabbing but was led away immediately by a member of parliament. Verwoerd, blood gushing from this throat, was rushed to a hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
It was the second assassination attempt against Verwoerd. ON April 9 1960, a white farmer shot him in the face from point blank range as the prime minister stood up in the distinguished visitors box at an agricultural show. The farmer, David Pratt, later committed suicide by hanging himself with a bed sheet in a mental hospital.
Pratt had said he was "shooting the epitome of apartheid."
Verwoerd, a tall and graying South African who became one of the most controversial figures of the Western world, declared after recovering from the first assassination attempt he was saved by "divine providence."
Today the messenger, who normally would not be admitted to the floor of the House, walked onto the floor at the outset of the afternoon session and approached the prime minister who had taken his seat on the government bench.
WHAT was said was not immediately known. Verwoerd rose in his seat as if to speak to him.
The assailant raised the knife and stabbed it at least three times into Verwoerd's neck and chest. There was a stunned silence as Verwoerd slumped forward, blood spurting from his neck.
A doctor member of Parliament rushed to the scene and tried mouth to mouth resuscitation while other members of the House pounded on the assailant.
Verwoerd was taken from the chamber apparently still alive.
It was announced in Parliament that Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Ben Schoeman would become acting premier.
There is no automatic line of succession In South Africa. The Federal Council of Verwoerd's ruling National Party which includes the leaders from all the provinces will have to meet and elect a new party leader who will become prime minister.
IT WAS generally believed Verwoerd eventually would be succeeded by Justice Minister B.J. Vorster.
Other parliamentary messengers told reporters that Stafendis, a hulking six footer, came from Lourenco Marques, capital of Mozambique, a Portuguese East African territory which adjoins South Africa.
In Mozambique, powerful nationalist elements have been fighting a guerrilla battle with Portuguese troops for some years.
Members of Parliament who saw the assassination thought Verwoerd had been stabbed only in the neck but a report from the hospital said the knife blade also entered his chest.
IN THE 1960 attempt one bullet entered Verwoerd's right ear and one entered his right cheek, breaking his jaw in two places. A third bullet missed.
Pratt said later he was "shooting at the epitome of apartheid" -- Verwoerd's program of racial segregation.
On that occasion Verwoerd was kept in a hospital for a month. When be emerged he said he had been spared death by "divine providence."
Verwoerd, who has been South African premier since late 1958, was to celebrate his 65th birthday this Thursday. The premier was carried from the assembly chamber on a stretcher at 2:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m. EDT) and then through the lobby to the hospital.
Officials said the assailant stabbed the premier at least three times, using a knife with a six-inch blade.
Verwoerd's wife Betsy was brought into the chamber room after the stabbing but was led away almost immediately by a member of Parliament.
Police immediately cleared the public galleries where several persons were weeping openly.
Officials said the attacker's name was believed to be Dimitri Tsafendas.
AS POLICE led him from the chamber a young man crying hysterically tried to attack him in the lobby but was fended off.
Verwoerd was the symbol of South African apartheid. A member of the Dutch Reformed Church, he believed that the Old Testament supported the theory of total separation of the races.
He was born at Ouderkerk, a town near Rotterdam, Holland, Sept. 8, 1901 and was brought to South Africa as a child. He was educated as a psychologist in German universities and entered the field of social service.
From his early days. Verwoerd was a dedicated believer in racial segregation. As minister of native affairs in the South African government, he started putting his theories into effect.