PNG attack: Grisly killings don't deter survivor

By Mike Watson, mike watson@dailypost co nz

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Nick Bennett
Nick Bennett

The former Rotorua man caught up in a fatal attack in Papua New Guinea while on a trekking adventure said the attack was an isolated incident and he would not hesitate to go back.

Nick Bennett, 55, was on the first day of a six-day remote 61km guided trek on the Black Cat trail when he stepped out of his tent and was whacked on the head by a masked attacker's riflebutt.

He watched helplessly as two native porters were hacked to death with bush knives and machetes before the attackers fled with the group's passports, wallets and gear.

The group, with four injured members, were forced to take the same remote bush trail as the attackers to find help.

Mr Bennett, a former police diplomatic protection squad member, told The Daily Post yesterday he would be willing to return to the area to walk the trail again.

"I have been through a few life-threatening experiences in my life ... I know I could have been killed," he said.

"It can be a dangerous area, and they say an arrow-head never strikes the same place twice, but I would definitely go back.

"It was an anomaly ... it was an isolated incident and it's not something that happens often."

Mr Bennett said the trekking party had finished a "fantastic" first day of the trek in the Morobe Highlands, having walked seven-and-a-half hours and visited wartime plane wreckage, before they made camp.

He said it was easy to be critical of another culture but believed education was the only solution to overcome more violent incidents in the region.

"The attack will absolutely devastate foreign tourism for these villagers who live in a very remote area and rely on the trekkers coming through. We sit outside the circle and make judgments on other cultures but it is education which is really needed."

The four armed attackers allegedly included three prison escapees, including one sentenced for murder, who had been living among the villagers, Mr Bennett said. The attack had been frenzied and the assailants hyped up on drugs.

"My heart goes out to the villagers ... it was a senseless act of savagery and the ripples will be felt in the region for many years to come."

Mr Bennett, a prominent performance and executive business coach in Mackay, Queensland, grew up in the Ford Block and went to Rotorua Boys' High School before joining the police.

He left the police diplomatic-protection squad after four years and has lived in Australia since 1979.

His father, Stan Bennett, had been officer in charge of the Rotorua Police Station, while his mother, Gwen, taught at Sunset and Westbrook primary schools for many years.

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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