A British teacher who retired to South Africa to run a safari lodge has been found beaten and stabbed to death in her home on a rural estate.

Police believe that Christine Robinson, 59, may also have been raped during the attack in at the 125-acre Rra-Ditau Lodge, near the border with Botswana, after trying to fight off her assailants.

South African police are now hunting for a farm worker who has not been seen since the murder which took place between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Mrs Robinson's family said she treated her staff as "family".

About £3,500, which Mrs Robinson had withdrawn from her bank account to pay staff wages, is missing.

Her body was found partially clothed and rolled in a duvet in the private wing of the lodge by a member of staff. Cuts and bruises to her body indicated that she had fought back against her attacker, a police spokeswoman said. She is believed to have died from a single stab wound to the neck.

Lehanne Sergison, from Kent, told the Daily Mail her aunt "was the most wonderful woman – bubbly and full of fun, a born storyteller who talked to anyone. She was impossible to dislike and made friends easily. All her friends and family are heartbroken at hearing of her death."

"If she was murdered by her employee, it's despicable, because she treated all of them as family," she said.

Mrs Robinson, who was from Liverpool, taught in international schools around the world, before settling on the game farm two hours north-west of Johannesburg with her husband, Robbie, 12 years ago.

Mr Robinson died two years ago of cancer, and Mrs Robinson continued to host guests at the estate alone.

A post-mortem of her body will be conducted next week.

"We are not ruling out the possibility that other people were involved, but at the moment this particular member of staff, who has not been seen since Mrs Robinson's body was found, is of particular interest to us," said Lieutenant Colonel Ronel Otto, of the South African Police Service.

Police added that he may have fled to Zimbabwe.

On average, there are two fatal attacks on farmers and their families in South Africa every week, prompting the country's Human Rights Commission to call a public hearing on the issue.