FEARS were growing last night for the safety of a Briton on an expedition to reach a remote tribe in Papua New Guinea.
Explorer Benedict Allen, who has no mobile phone or GPS device with him, was last seen when a helicopter dropped him into the jungle three weeks ago.
He had not arranged for the pilot to pick him up after his trip and had predicted he might have to ‘paddle downriver for a week or two’ to get back.
But his sister Katie Pestille said she was worried because he had missed a booked flight home to London, which was ‘out of character’.
‘It’s ghastly,’ she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
‘For everybody else, it’s very exciting — all the expeditions and all the things he does, but for his sister and his wife, it’s more of a worry.’
Mr Allen’s agent Joanna Sarsby told the BBC the 57-year-old’s wife Lenka was ‘very worried’ about him even though he is ‘adept at surviving in the most hostile places on Earth’.
‘He was trying to reach the Yaifo people, a very remote and reclusive tribe — possibly headhunters, quite a scary bunch,’ Ms Sarsby told the Daily Mail. ‘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.’
Mr Allen was dropped off at a disused mission station as he travelled to meet the Yaifo, one of the last tribes on Earth not in contact with the outside world.
The 57-year-old wrote on his website in September that, when he visited 30 years ago, they met him with a ‘terrifying show of strength, an energetic dance featuring their bows and arrows’.
The adventurer, who has made six BBC documentaries about his travels, said of his latest trip: ‘If this website or my Twitter account falls more than usually silent — I’m due back mid-November — it’s because I am still out there somewhere.
‘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.’
The BBC’s Frank Gardner, a friend of Mr Allen’s, said: ‘The chances are that he is going to be fine, I hope those aren’t famous last words.’
The security correspondent, who made a TV show in Papua New Guinea with the father-of-three last year, added: ‘Benedict always expected something like this. I had supper with him just before he left and he said, “I’m quite certain I’ll probably be out of contact for quite some time and people shouldn’t worry about it”.’
However, Ms Pestille said: ‘He knows all about the survival stuff.
‘What worries me is that there are bad people in these jungles.’