David Benson’s article about his arrest
In the article I wrote about the PR team from Ford Motor Company being arrested in Africa, I erroneously said that there was only one newspaper article about it. I was wrong. You’ll recall that one of the people arrested in the Congo was David Benson – then a reporter for the Daily Express. I believe that he was their motoring correspondent. I’ve found an article by him, written shortly after his release and return to the UK. You can see part of it above.
As you can see, the headline reads ‘At gunpoint they called me a spy’.
Edgy Fabris from Ford, David Benson and a film crew from ATV hired a small plane in Africa to meet up with Eric Jackson and Ken Chambers to take some footage. This they did – the car stopped for about half an hour and the drivers were interviewed. What happened to that footage? Well, David Benson and the rest of the crew were almost immediately arrested by Congolese troops. They were detained for five days and the film was destroyed. David says in the article that all the film they had taken was exposed or destroyed. He also says about the arrest:
The paratrooper thought we should be shot immediately as spies. That to us seemed to be the most perilous moment, but there was worse to come.
What was that? David didn’t go into details but what he did say was:
In Kisangani we met our most formidable opponent – a Cuban-trained interrogator. His name I never knew, his methods I will never forget.
He then talks about Alf Hicks, one of the ATV staff:
Alf told me “When we got off the plane I heard the guards cock their rifles.”
He then goes on to relate how they were released and had to sign official release documents. They thankfully returned to their plane (which wasn’t without incident – see Petrol in My Blood) and after 45 minutes in the air, the pilot, who had also been one of the people arrested, told his passengers that there was a malfunction in the engine due to the plane being stood for five days. He said:
If it were anywhere else in the world I would turn back. What do we do?
The passengers agreed to go on. The pilot said:
If the engines fail we have no hope of being found in the jungle so if we run into trouble I will dive straight into the ground Might as well finish it off straight away.
David Benson says that they had a better chance in a sick plane than going back to the Congo – through which Eric Jackson and Ken Chambers were currently driving…