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Concern grows as explorer Benedict Allen goes missing in Papua New Guinea

UK News | Published:

The explorer, who has recorded series for the BBC, failed to arrive back in Port Moresby for a flight out of Papau New Guinea.

Benedict Allen (Steve Watkins/Jo Sarsby Personal Management Ltd/PA)

The family of a British explorer who has gone missing on an expedition to reach a remote tribe in Papua New Guinea have spoken of their concerns for his safety.

Benedict Allen was dropped by helicopter into the remote jungle three weeks ago and has not been heard of since.

He was hoping to reach the Yaifo, a tribe thought to be one of the last on Earth to have no contact with the outside world.

British explorer missing in Papua New Guinea
(PA Graphics)

The author and TV presenter, who has made six TV series for the BBC, has no mobile phone or GPS device with him and was expected to begin his journey home at the weekend.

Mr Allen’s sister, Katie Pestille, told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “He knows all about that survival stuff. It’s just what worries me is there are bad people in these jungles.

“You would think that they were totally empty but there are people in there. I mean, I know more about the Amazon, but there are loggers and drug dealers and all sorts of bad people.”

Mr Allen’s friend, BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner, who travelled to Papua New Guinea with him twice last year, said: “I would say the chances are that Benedict is going to be fine, I hope those aren’t famous last words.

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“Benedict always expected something like this. I had supper with him just before he left and he said, ‘look, I’m quite certain I’ll probably be out of contact for quite some time and people shouldn’t worry about it’.”

Mr Allen’s agent Joanna Sarsby told the Daily Mail his wife Lenka was “very worried”.

She added: “He is a highly experienced explorer, very clever and resourceful and adept at surviving in the most hostile places on Earth, and he would never give up. He may not be a young man any more but he is very fit.

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“He was trying to reach the Yaifo people, a very remote and reclusive tribe – possibly headhunters, quite a scary bunch. Goodness knows what has happened.

“I just imagine he might have been taken ill or is lying injured somewhere, perhaps with a broken leg, and maybe being helped by locals.

“He never takes a phone with him – he believes in living like the locals. For him not to come back is really odd.”

In a blog post on his website, Mr 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.”

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.”

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