Earlier this month, we reported on the miraculous escape of a British hiker and his girlfriend from a cannibalistic tribe deep in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, however locals have now called bullshit on their dramatic story.
Matthew Iovane claimed that he thought he was going to be ‘eaten by cannibals’ when he and American Michelle Clemens were tied up, stripped naked and beaten after they were captured by tribesmen while hiking the country’s famous Kokoda Trail, the Daily Mail reports.
However, furious locals in Papua New Guinea have cast doubts on the Brit’s claims, suggesting many of the details do not correlate to the reality of the walking trail.
Iovane, 31, claims that during the attack he was shackled to a tree while Miss Clemens, also 31, was repeatedly attacked and had her fingers sliced open. During the alleged kidnapping he says the only thing he could understand their captors saying was, ‘Kill you’.
Eventually, the couple say they managed to escape while they were being force-marched through the jungle and ran naked back to safety.
In the days following the attack, local police confirmed the pair were stripped of their belongings including mobile phones, shoes, backpacks and 15,000 kina (£3,500) in cash.
However, in an apparent backtrack, Dominic Kakas, constabulary chief superintendent of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary, now says: “We are doing our own checks on what we have been provided. We are now trying to re-establish the facts and what has happened.”
Locals are reportedly furious at being labelled ‘cannibals’ and are worried that the story may have damaged the country’s vital tourism industry.
Charlie Lynn, an experienced Australian outdoorsman who runs a trekking business along the remote 60 mile trail, has also questioned key aspects of the couple’s story.
— The Sun (@TheSun) January 13, 2016
Despite the pair claiming they were virtually naked and only rescued when they happened upon a local village, Mr Lynn claims the couple were photographed boarding a rescue helicopter after the attack – wearing the same clothes as they wore when they entered the jungle.
He wrote on his blog:
This begs the question as to how the clothing they were wearing on the helicopter at Alola village miraculously reappeared after their semi-naked trek from Templeton’s Crossing when, according to their own account, all their possessions had been stolen.
Mr Lynn – who has walked the Kokoda Trail 79 times – also said the two would have suffered terrible cuts to their feet had they made the 15 km journey.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) January 13, 2016
This would have been a difficult and painful trek for semi-naked expatriates without shoes. Their feet would have been seriously lacerated during the 8 – 12 hours it would have taken them to complete it under the conditions they described.
He then went on to rubbish details Mr Iovane provided about the rugged jungle environment, where he had claimed the couple lived like ‘Tarzan and Jane’ in the days prior to the attack.
Mr Iovane had originally told The Sun:
The first five days were among the most amazing of our lives. We lived like Tarzan and Jane on nuts packed into our rucksacks and bananas, papaya, wild spinach and exotic ‘tree tomatoes’ found only in this jungle.’
— David Daniel Ball (@DaOddBall67) January 28, 2016
But Mr Lynn has said that fruit and nuts do not grow wild along the jungle trails – they are only available when sold by villagers located near the track.
And he also dismissed the claims that they encountered a pack of wild dogs during their ‘terrifying’ journey through the jungle to safety.
There are no wild dogs on the Kokoda Trail because there is nothing for them to eat. There are small dogs in villages along the trail which are kept as domestic pets.
Mr Iovane has discounted Mr Lynn’s investigation when contacted by News.com.au.
He told the website:
He is trying to clearly protect his business. The truth is on the global news and from the police officials describing what happened. Charlie is merely a blogger looking to create skepticism to protect his business – maybe try looking at the evidence from the police.