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Pilot David Simpson celebrates his freedom from squalid African jail
PILOT David Simpson spent almost six months fighting to be freed from a squalid African jail – but is now determined to go back within weeks to launch a wildlife charity to protect endangered species.
Mr Simpson, 24, was held in prison for 162 days on mass murder charges after he reported finding 13 bodies with machete wounds while clearing dense forest.
Mr Simpson, of Gillamoor, near Pickering, was working in the Central African Republic for a company which takes clients game hunting when he discovered the bodies of the massacre victims, and told the police – only to be accused of being involved in their deaths.
Despite enjoying the freedom of life back in North Yorkshire after being cleared of all charges last week, he said he planned to return to Africa in October and set up a charity to help wildlife in the area where he had been working.
“While I was in prison I had a lot of time to think. I really want to set up a charity to help protect the wildlife – there is nothing like it left in the world and it needs preserving,” he said.
“People think I am crazy, but now I have seen the best and the worst of the country and I still love the place and the work out there.”
Mr Simpson said when he returned home on Saturday to his parents, Peter and Vicky Simpson, and brother Paul, the first thing he did “was give my mum a big hug”.
“She has been so strong through all of this,” he said.
“She is a tough woman and surprisingly she has been very supportive of me going back – my dad not so much.”
Mr Simpson was temporarily released in early August during a riot at the prison, but was ordered back behind bars soon afterwards. He contracted malaria several times and was in a cell in squalid conditions with several suspected criminals – but said he never lost hope he would be freed.
“I never thought I would be there for ever,” he said. “If I did I would have been a wreck curled up and crying in the corner.
“I always believed I would get out by some way or measure. I was brought up to believe when things got tough you just keep your head up and get on with things.
“I never gave up hope – I just kept myself going.
“I did feel incredibly angry sometimes like being a teenager again with an uncontrollable anger. But then you reason with yourself and realise it is not helping.”
He said it had been a “crazy whirlwind” since he had come back with media interviews – and he was looking forward to a time “where no-one knows my name”.
He said he had had chance to enjoy some home comforts like a fry-up since being home – although he was yet to have the fish and chips he dreamed about while locked up in his cell.
Mr Simpson said one of the main things that struck him since being home was realising the level of support he had had from members of the public.
A dedicated Facebook group : “David Simpson British pilot imprisoned in Central Africa” – drew more than 3,500 supporters who helped him fight for freedom.
“I have been really touched by the support everyone has given me,” said Mr Simpson. “It has been very much appreciated.”
Thirteen of Mr Simpson’s African colleagues, arrested with him and his Swedish boss in March, were also acquitted of involvement in the killings, which bore the hallmarks of an attack by supporters of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony.