British explorer on trail of headhunters goes missing
Father-of-three seeking remote tribe in Papua New Guinea for BBC fails to return at expected time
A BRITISH explorer has gone missing in a remote jungle in Papua New Guinea while searching for a lost tribe of headhunters, his agent has said.
Benedict Allen, 57, was dropped by helicopter in the jungle in the north- west of the country known as the Central Range three weeks ago to find the tribe for a BBC documentary and has not been heard from since.
He had been due back in Port Moresby, the capital, on Sunday to take a flight to Hong Kong to deliver a talk to the Royal Geographical Society yesterday. He had written on Twitter and his website before his departure that he may not be heard from for some time, but his family now fear for his safety.
Joanna Sarsby, his agent, told a newspaper: “His wife Lenka has not heard from him. She is very worried. He would never miss something like the Hong Kong talk unless something had happened.” Mr Allen, a father of three, had been attempting to track down the Yaifo, who are among the few remaining tribes on Earth not to have contact with the outside world.
Ms Sarsby said that the Yaifo were “quite a scary bunch” and that it was “really odd” Mr Allen had not returned.
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: “Our staff are assisting the family of a British man who has been reported missing in Papua New Guinea, and are contacting the local authorities.”
Mr Allen is a very experienced explorer, known for immersing himself among indigenous peoples. His daring expeditions include crossing the Gobi desert and Amazon basin.
He said on his website he had made the “first outside contact” with the Yaifo tribe 30 years ago and was returning “to create a brief record of their lives, if possible tracking down some of those... who’d remember me”.
He went on to say he had “no 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”.
He said that “just like the good old days” he would not be taking a satellite phone, GPS or a travelling companion.
In a post on Twitter on Oct 11, Allen wrote: “Marching off to Heathrow. I may be some time (don’t try to rescue me, please – where I’m going in PNG you won’t ever find me, you know...)”
Benedict Allen tweeted: “Don’t try to rescue me... you won’t find me” before he began his search for an isolated tribe