TV sleuth’s ab­duc­tion hor­ror

Sherlock star sur­vived a real-life brush with crime, writes Luaine Lee

Herald Sun - Switched On - - On The Couch -

WHEN it comes to sheer ad­ven­ture, you could not choose a bet­ter can­di­date to play Sherlock Holmes than Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch.

At 26, Cum­ber­batch found him­self bound and thrown into the boot of a car by six car­jack­ers while he was in South Africa film­ing the minis­eries To the Ends of the Earth.

He and two friends had gone to Santa Lu­cia, on the north­east coast of South Africa, near Mozam­bique, to learn to scuba dive. Driv­ing home their tyre blew.

‘‘ I said, ‘ I can sort this out.’ (The) three of us — an ac­tress called Denise Black, mother of two, and Theo Landey, who lives in South Africa, and me — we’re try­ing to change the tyre,’’ Cum­ber­batch says.

‘‘ These six men ap­peared sud­denly from the eu­ca­lyp­tus plan­ta­tion. They said, ‘ Put your hands on your head, don’t look at us,’ and were frisk­ing us for drugs, money, weapons. They bun­dled us into the car.

‘‘ I was in the front pas­sen­ger seat with my back against the wind­screen, the other two squashed in the back. I could see the head­lights bump­ing over the dirt track and I thought of shal­low graves and thought that ei­ther my­self or some­one else is go­ing to be phon­ing my mum at the end of the night . . .

‘‘ By the end of the night I was tied next to Denise. She had her arm tied to me. They pulled over, pulled the stuff out of the car.’’

While they per­mit­ted Cum­ber­batch to exit the car, they wouldn’t let him stand.

‘‘ They dragged me up and put me in the boot of the car. I heard Denise say, ‘ Don’t hurt him.’ I ar­gued my way out,’’ Cum­ber­batch says.

‘‘ I said, ‘ If you leave me in here, it’s not the lack of air, it’s the small space, there’s a prob­lem with my heart and my brain.’ I just tried to ex­plain to them, ‘ I will die, pos­si­bly have a fit, and it will be a prob­lem for you. I will be a dead English­man in your car. Not good.’

‘‘ They shut the boot, and had an ar­gu­ment for two sec­onds and then pulled me out. So I kind of thank God I had the pres­ence of mind to give them the idea that it would be bet­ter to keep me alive. And the other two hadn’t been harmed. I was re­ally fright­ened I was go­ing to hear them be­ing shot or pis­tol whipped.

‘‘ Then they got the car to the side of the road, tied us up, guns to the heads. ‘ Lie down on the ground. If you do any­thing we’ll shoot you.’ They took the car, but three of them were stand­ing over us for a while and the other three took the car. That prob­a­bly went on for about an hour and a half.’’ Fi­nally they were free. ‘‘ It taught me two things,’’ says Cum­ber­batch. ‘‘ That is that you come into this world as you leave it, on your own. And that’s a very pro­found thing to ac­tu­ally get your head around. It’s very glib and easy to say, but to ac­tu­ally ex­pe­ri­ence that and be made very aware of it is some­thing. It’s made me want to live a life slightly less or­di­nary.’’

Though spurred with ro­man­tic vi­sions of be­ing a crim­i­nal lawyer, Cum­ber­batch even­tu­ally suc­cumbed to the fam­ily busi­ness — act­ing. So when it came time to cast an up­dated ver­sion of some Sherlock Holmes tales, he seemed a nat­u­ral. Sherlock, Chan­nel 9, Wed­nes­day, 8.30pm

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