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Fears for explorer missing in search for remote tribe

Benedict Allen vanished after being dropped by helicopter in Papua New Guinea.

Benedict Allen
Credit: PA

A British explorer has gone missing while on an expedition to reach a remote tribe in Papua New Guinea.

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

His last post on Twitter was on 11 October was:"Matching 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
Credit: PA

Benedict was due to begin his journey home at the weekend.

The father of three's family say they are concerned for his safety and have no way of reaching him as he chose not to take a mobile phone or GPS device with him.

The author and TV presenter, who has made six TV series for the BBC, embarked on the trip to attempt to make contact with the Yaifo tribe again 30 years after he first found them.

In a blog entitled "I may be some time" Benedict wrote on his website about his plans before he left the UK, it read: "No outsider has made the journey to visit them [the Yaifo] since the rather perilous journey I made as a young man three decades ago.

"This would make them the remotest people in Papua New Guinea, and one of the last people on the entire planet who are out-of-contact with our interconnected world."

In the blog, written in September, Mr Allen speculated about how, if he found the tribe once again, would react to his arrival.

It reads: "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.

The explorer also said after being dropped off by helicopter he would have no planned way of returning.

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

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

Benedict also made reference to the fact he would have no means of communication with the outside world.

Model Jerry Hall pictured with Benedict Allen in 2003 at a charity film screening.
Model Jerry Hall pictured with Benedict Allen in 2003 at a charity film screening. PA

"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."

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 was dropped off into the jungle by helicopter three weeks ago.
Mr Allen was dropped off into the jungle by helicopter three weeks ago. PA

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.

"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.

Benedict Allen first discovered the tribe 30 years ago and embarked on a mission to find them again.
Benedict Allen first discovered the tribe 30 years ago and embarked on a mission to find them again. Credit: PA

"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."

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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