|Trip ... pair had hoped for a dream holiday before nightmare began|
A COUPLE last night spoke of their fears of being eaten by spear-waving tribesmen after they were captured while trekking in a jungle known for cannibalism. Brit Matthew Iovane and American girlfriend Michelle Clemens, both 31, had been on the dream trip to Papua New Guinea when they were pounced on by painted men on Monday.
Two natives with machetes beat and stripped the terrified pair before blindfolding them and leading them into the jungle.
|Smiles ... Matthew and Michelle the day before hell trek began|
The couple said the tribesmen, one of whom wore a mask made from feathers and vines, were so primitive that they communicated in grunts. But they said they knew enough English to issue the chilling warning: “We will kill you.” Brand consultant Matthew, who appeared in Channel 4 survival show Shipwrecked, was brutally beaten when the pair tried to escape.
|Wild tribe ... Papua New Guinea natives in traditional dress and spears John Dominis/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images|
Michelle had three fingers sliced to the bone by a machete as she fought her captors. Matthew said: “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. They were totally feral and we were at their mercy. I thought we’d vanish into the jungle and never be seen again.”
Cases of cannibalism on the Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea have been reported as recently as 2012. Some natives are also thought to follow a tradition of feasting on relatives’ brains at funerals.
Last night British consular officials confirmed they are assisting the couple and said: “The matter is being taken very seriously.” Matthew, of Shoreditch, East London, met restaurant hostess Michelle last year while he was visiting her native Los Angeles. The adventure holiday regulars agreed to meet in Sydney, Australia, and then fly to Papua New Guinea together. They planned to tackle the arduous Kokoda Trail, a 60-mile hike through one of the last great unexplored wildernesses on Earth.
|Ouch ... injuries suffered|
Matthew, who DJs in his spare time, added: “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. “Villagers we met along the way were wonderfully welcoming and rushed out to greet us and we slept under the stars soaking up the most astonishing scenery of mountains and jungle creeks.
|Terrified ... Michelle is now recovering from terror kidnap ordeal|
“It was truly a dream trip made even better by the way Michelle and I loved each other’s company. As we set out in the morning of the final day I felt elated.” The couple had hired a native to carry a heavy bag early in the trip, but he had peeled off before the final day. They are convinced he betrayed them.
Matthew said: “We were about an hour into the walk when a tribesman appeared ahead of us and another behind us. “Our first reaction was to try to calm them and we even thought it must be some kind of a prank, but we realised very quickly that we were in a very serious situation. “They both had machetes with huge blades and one had a long wooden spear with a crude arrowhead and they were grunting.
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“I thought we were being robbed so we put down our bags and tried to calm them, saying they could take everything when they started pushing and threatening us. “They got more angry and didn’t seem to understand the value of our belongings and hiking kit. It meant nothing to them.
“Then one turned on me, swinging his machete and began tearing at my clothes until I was stripped virtually naked. They looked fearsome and I was too terrified to fight back.”
The couple did try to flee, but fell after becoming tangled in vines and were quickly recaptured. While being held in blindfolds in a snake-infested scrub, they were then subjected to a torture game.
Matthew said: “The one in a mask punched me, tied my hands in vines and then began playing a cruel cat and mouse game with me.
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