Get in touch: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting YORK to 80360 or send an email»
Ryedale pilot David Simpson in African jail after finding massacred bodies
THE brother of a North Yorkshire pilot who has been in an African jail for a month after stumbling across massacre victims has spoken of his family’s “nightmare” as they try to clear his name.
David Simpson, 24, from Gillamoor, near Pickering, was arrested after he found 18 male bodies in remote bush in the Central African Republic (CAR), the site of a suspected massacre by the Lord’s Resistance Army headed by rebel Joseph Kony.
Mr Simpson’s brother, Paul, 22, told The Press he had been visiting David, who has been working in the CAR for two years as a hunter and pilot with Cawa Safari, when his brother was seized by the local military.
He said he feared the authorities would try and blame the brutal murders on David, a former pupil of both Ryedale School and Lady Lumley’s School, in Pickering.
He said their parents, Peter and Vicki Simpson, who run a pheasant farm in Gillamoor, were desperately worried.
Paul said his brother had been helping to clear a road through dense bush on March 23 and had gone to find a river for drinking water with his Swedish-born boss Erik Mararv, when they stumbled across three piles of bodies near a gold mine.
Paul said: “He saw a pile of corpses face down. It was clear they had all been massacred. It was crazy.
“There were six bodies all laid out in a circle – they had been placed like that.
“They had been battered to death with sticks and stones and then finished off with a machete to the head.
“He then found another group of four. They all had boiling water poured over them and again finished off with a machete to the head.
“Then there was another group in similar circumstances.
“David used his satellite phone to call me and tell me what he had found. Erik called the military authorities based in the capital, Bangui, but all they did was comeand take a single picture on their mobile phone before leaving.
“They were freaked out and left almost immediately.”
Paul said his brother and Mr Mararv went to a nearby town to report what they had seen but said: “They turned on our team out there.
“Our truck loaded with supplies was burned and our team was attacked.”
Paul said that days later, his brother’s aircraft was fired at as he tried to depart from the nearest town, Bakouma, after flying to the area to take a wounded man to a hospital.
“David was shot at as he landed the plane on the runway,” Paul said. “He jumped back in his plane and left.”
He said his brother and Mr Mararv then went voluntarily to the capital to try and talk to military authorities, but were arrested immediately.
Neither has been charged but both are still imprisoned, more than a month later.
Paul Simpson said after fighting on his brother’s behalf with the authorities to try and free David, he was forced to fly home on his scheduled flight a week later, saying there was nothing more he could do.
Paul said: “They have not got anything on him, but I feel like they want to pin these murders singlehandedly on my brother.
“They want to say he went into the bush and did this himself.
“It’s ridiculous; Africa is slow moving, but this is taking forever. We just keep being told ‘another day – wait another day’ and it is just not good enough.
“We need to do something to get him out of there.”
Mr Simpson said the Foreign Office had arranged for his brother to be given a mobile phone and said David phoned from his cell every day.
He said he was being treated well and laughed, saying he was in a “VIP cell” compared to others.
Mr Simpson said: “He calls when he can and I just try and make him laugh – that is all I can do at the moment – try and keep his spirits up."
He said: “Our parents don’t want to speak to him too often as they get too upset so I try and relay what is going on.
“It is really difficult. It has been a nightmare.”
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We can confirm the arrest of British national David Simpson.
“We are providing consular assistance to David Simpson and are in contact with the Central African Republic authority.”
‘Money the key’ to prison ordeal
Jan Jacobsson, who works for African Adventure, a neighbouring safari company, said he had been in contact with Mr Mararv’s wife, Emelie, who is comforting their two young sons in their native Sweden.
Speaking to The Press from Africa, Mr Jacobsson said: “Emelie, as you can imagine, is in a state of shock in Sweden. We hear about Erik and David’s situation through her.
“It is a very, very difficult situation. We hope – all of us do here – that it will be resolved and as quickly as possible.”
He said his firm started at the same time as Cawi Safari, which offers wealthy clients safari and hunting trips, and said they had a good friendship.
“It is a very strange ordeal because they have not actually being accused of anything yet,” he said.
“Normally they would be charged within two weeks but it has been five weeks now. I think it is a money issue.
“A lot of people think the whites are rich and make a lot of money out of this hunting business and that is not the case.”
State scarred by warfare and poverty
THE Central African Republic (CAR) is a landlocked country in Central Africa, bordering Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon.
It covers about 240,000 square miles and has an estimated population of about 4.4 million. It has been independent since 1960.
It has significant mineral resources of crude oil, gold and diamonds, but remains one of the poorest countries in the world and among the ten poorest in Africa.
The country is reportedly the refuge of notorious warlord Joseph Kony, the leader of His Lord's Resistance Army, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
He and his group are accused of killing and maiming villagers, abducting children and turning them into soldiers or sex slaves.