Victims of PNG attack home

 

THE rain had just stopped and it was about 4pm when bandits wearing balaclavas ran into their campsite brandishing bush knives and guns.

This was what Mackay man Nick Bennett witnessed from his tent while he was trekking the Black Cat track in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

After receiving a splitting blow to his head from the back of what looked like a 303 rifle, Mr Bennett was crouched and bleeding in his tent when he witnessed the brutal murder of two of the trekking group's porters.

"The sheer energy of the murderers...it was a frenzied slaughter," he said.

The Mackay businessman was reunited with his son, Michael, and wife Rowena Hardy yesterday afternoon at the Mackay Airport.

For several moments he stood in silence holding his loved ones close to him in an emotional embrace.

It seemed that they were unaware of the media swarm that swirled around them capturing the tender moment.

In his words, his wife, his son and the city had "never looked better".

"It's good to be home," he said.

Walking out of the airport and into Mackay's hot afternoon sun, he clutched the hand of his son tight.

This was a stark contrast to what he was confronted with while travelling in the remote PNG highlands with his trekking partner Steve Ward.

 

Surviviors Steve Ward and Nick Bennett disembark in Mackay after surviving an attack on the Black Cat Trail in PNG.
Surviviors Steve Ward and Nick Bennett disembark in Mackay after surviving an attack on the Black Cat Trail in PNG. Lee Constable

 

The Black Cat track was not for the faint-hearted, and they had been training for months, he said. "I went partly for the history, and partly for the challenge," he said.

"It is one of those things you have to really plan for."

However, he had never imagined he would witness such a brutal attack.

"This was a pure anomaly...this was just murder," he said.

The murderers were brandishing bush knives; a weapon similar to a machete but far more lethal, he said.

"They are longer and slightly thinner, but they are much stronger. Probably about two to three inches wide and extremely sharp," he said.

Despite his horrific encounter in a foreign land, Mr Bennett praised the kindness and generosity of the PNG community.

In the future he plans on setting up a trust for the families of the murdered men.

"My injuries will heal, but I don't think my heart will ever heal," he said.

In the meantime, Mr Bennett was enjoying the safe and warm company from his loving family.

"We were discussing just before what we would have for dinner. I am not sure what it will be, but I am sure it will be fantastic," he said.



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