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BRIT & girlfriend captured by Papua New Guinea cannibals

Tom Culshaw
Written by Tom Culshaw

Papua New Guinea cannibals capture couple in savage attack

Swinging his machete at him while shouting ‘Kill you’.

A British reality TV star and his girlfriend were captured by a tribe while on holiday in Papua New Guinea and feared they would be eaten by cannibals.

Matthew Iovane and his American partner Michelle Clemens were confronted by a gang while trekking through the jungle. They then stripped them naked and beat them with machetes.

Mr Iovane was shackled to a tree while Miss Clemens was repeatedly attacked and had her fingers sliced open.

They had no idea why they had been targeted – and the only thing they could understand their captors saying was ‘kill you’.

The couple finally managed to escape while they were being force-marched through the jungle and ran naked back to safety.

The incident is now being investigated by the Foreign Office, who are helping the Papua New Guinea authorities find the tribesmen responsible.

“For five days, they met a host of welcoming villagers and spent every night sleeping in the open after foraging for their food in the forest.

But on the final day of their trip, Mr Iovane and Miss Clemens were suddenly confronted by two tribesmen, one in front and one behind, who were both armed with machetes, followed by several other natives.”

Mr Iovane, who was on reality TV show Shipwrecked in 2008, told The Sun: ‘We’d joked about the famous cannibals of Papua New Guinea’s jungle but it was no laughing matter when these men came out of the bush.

‘They looked very scary in native costumes and what looked like warpaint and came closer before circling around us.

‘They tore up my T-shirt to blindfold me and the awful thought crossed my mind that we could be on the menu.’

The pair offered the gang their belongings, but the tribesmen ignored their backpacks and tied them up.

The gang later ransacked their bags – finding Miss Clemens’ iPhone and shouting at her to turn it on.

At one point, she suffered deep cuts to her fingers from her kidnappers’ machetes, and now she fears she may never fully regain the feeling in them.

When the travellers finally managed to run away, they were threatened by wild dogs and hurt by poison ivy – but at last they found a friendly local who raised the alarm.

Mr Iovane and Miss Clemens are now recovering from their ordeal in Port Moresby.

Papua New Guinea Police said the pair were stripped of their belongings including mobile phones, shoes, backpacks and 15,000 kina (£3,500) in cash.

Local assistant Police Commissioner Sylvester Kalaut told The National newspaper: ‘The male trekker was tied to a tree and the female was repeatedly attacked before three of her fingers were chopped.

‘The incident took place for an hour before they (trekkers) were set free.’

Police said at least two suspects carrying bush knives and spears were involved. 

One of them was being held by villagers, The National added.

The couple fled to a village and were taken to the lawless Pacific island’s capital Port Moresby, where they were given medical attention.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed the attack and said the couple were hiking without a licensed tour operator.

Thousands of native tribes, many of which are cut off from the rest of the world, live in the island’s remote jungles.