UK

Benedict Allen Insists ‘I Did Not Need Rescuing’ After Daily Mail Helicopter Plucked Him From The Jungle

'I never asked to be rescued.'

21/11/2017 11:32 GMT | Updated 21/11/2017 12:31 GMT

Benedict Allen returned to the UK on Tuesday after being spirited from the jungles of Papua New Guinea by a helicopter chartered by the Daily Mail.

Fears had been growing for the explorer, who failed to return from his trek and missed several booked flights earlier this month.

The Daily Mail had crowed of its rescue mission on Saturday’s front page, boasting of its daring trip to return the weak, fever-wracked father-of-three to the bosom of his distraught family.

BBC
Benedict Allen is back in the UK though still suffering from strains of malaria and dengue fever 

But Allen, who is still recovering from strains of malaria and dengue fever, has somewhat contradicted this heroic account. While admitting his exit route through the jungle was blocked by two warring communities, he was emphatic that he was still planning a final effort that would have eventually brought him to safety.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he said: “I wasn’t expecting to be rescued. I never asked to be rescued but when it came – for the sake of my family – I thought ‘I’ve got to do this.’”

Embarrassingly for the Daily Mail, its sister paper the Mail on Sunday also appeared to contradict it’s scoop, with the helicopter pilot confirming Allen “didn’t need rescuing” and that “it wasn’t as if he was in mortal danger.”

Speaking to BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner in west London this morning, Allen continued: “I wasn’t on my last legs. I was almost on my last legs. I had one big chance to get out and I was just gathering myself for that when totally out of the blue, unexpected, this helicopter arrived.”

Rex Features
Allen pictured exploring in the South American rainforests in 1983

When asked if the fact the rescue had been paid for by the Daily Mail perhaps implied the incident was a publicity stunt, Allen replied: “You can’t fake that sort of thing. You can’t fake a war. That’s ridiculous.”

As well as a conflict and illness, Allen had been contending with constant rain, leeches and a ripped mosquito net, but is adamant he was in good hands as local people escorted him through the jungle. 

He said: “I do have a back-up. Part of my back-up is not being able to summon a helicopter, it’s to use the local resources and be friends with people who can help you.”  

Despite facing criticisms for not taking a satellite phone on his trek, Allen will not yet commit to doing so in future, though he has promised to review his security procedures.

The 57-year-old had been attempting to make contact with the indigenous Yaifo tribe, who last made contact with the outside world 30 years ago. 

In a blog post on his website, Allen wrote in September: “The Yaifo are one of the last people on the entire planet who are out of contact with our interconnected world.

“In October I’m hiring a helicopter to drop me off at the abandoned mission station, Bisorio – a forlorn place.

“Last time the Yaifo greeted me with a terrifying show of strength, an energetic dance featuring their bows and arrows.

“On this occasion who knows if the Yaifo will do the same, or run off, or be wearing jeans and T-shirts traded eons ago from the old mission station.

“Nor do I have an obvious means of returning to the outside world, which is somewhat worrying, especially at my advanced age.

“Either I must paddle down river for a week or so – or enlist the help of the Yaifo, as I did last time.

“So, if this website or my Twitter account falls more than usually silent – I’m due back mid-Nov – it’s because I am still out there somewhere.

“So, don’t bother to call or text. Just like the good old days, I won’t be taking a sat phone, GPS or companion. Or anything else much. Because this is how I do my journeys of exploration. I grow older but no wiser, it seems.”