Get in touch: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting YOGAZ to 80360 or send an email»
Return to the scene of jail ordeal
A NORTH Yorkshire man who spent months wrongfully imprisoned in an African jail cell was due to return to the country of his ordeal this week to set up a huge conservation project.
David Simpson, from Gillamoor, near Kirkbymoorside, was arrested and imprisoned in the Central African Republic in March last year after finding the bodies of more than a dozen gold miners abandoned in the bush and being suspected of being part of the massacre.
He spent five months fighting to get home, but now the pilot is putting his concerns aside to pour his time and money into setting up a huge conservation project in the country’s remote centre.
He said: “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried, but I have a vision of what I want this project to be and what it can do. I think it can make a lot of difference.”
The Chinko Project will see a two-million hectare area – twice the size of Yorkshire – designated a nature reserve with parts set aside for eco tourism initiatives. The ambitious project will cost around two million euros a year to run, and David has already put his own funds into the scheme.
He said: “When I got out of prison I managed to earn around £30,000 from the different media appearances, and I have put all that money into the project.
“But £30,000 does not go far, and that’s what I have been working on.”
After his first return to Central African Republic earlier this year, David has spent around four months in Tanzania and around Europe trying to secure funding for the plan.
David and the rest of the five board members involved have now been promised money by both the EU and the US Department of Fish and Wildlife, but now have to prove their plans are possible.
“A lot of people have said that it’s impossible, so now I have to go back and prove I can do it.”
He was due to fly back this week to work on the scheme for about ten months, and will be meeting government officials including the country’s president, and starting to recruit and train rangers to protect the reserve.