The National – Wednesday, February 9, 2011
A POLICEMAN, who disappeared for 52 hours, was found naked but alive with a coiled serpent as his guardian deep in the jungles of Upele between Tari Gap and Benaria in Southern Highlands.
The police media unit reported last night that First Const Mathew Kami was among a police contingent sent to the area in pursuit of criminals operating in the Ambua Ranges who, allegedly, raped five women and robbed tra- vellers last Sunday.
Kami got separated in the jungle and did not rejoin his group.
He was found at around 3pm yesterday by four villagers, who carried the policeman for more than five hours in a stretcher made from tree branches and vines. Kami was carried through thick jungle and across rapid river torrents before reaching Ambua where police were camping.
The 32-year-old policeman from Tambunum village, East Sepik, was last night reportedly exhausted and recovering at the Tari Hospital.
The bizarre twist in this tale, police pointed out, was that locals, who rescued the policeman, said they found Kami lying next to a large snake completely naked and incoherent.
They also found his weapon, a high-powered police-issued A2 rifle, by his side and had returned it to police in Tari.
When interview by police, the four villagers said the snake coiled itself close to where Kami was lying but slithered away when the rescuers recited a prayer.
Policemen engaged in the search and rescue operation were mystified because Upele was too far and separated by at least four fast-flowing rivers. It would take about five hours to walk between Upele and Ambua.
Police said their colleague appeared weak and delirious when he was taken to the Tari Hospital at 10 o’clock last night and was placed in intensive care.
Kami’s wife and three children were informed on Monday night and arrangements had been made for them to travel to Tari to be with him.
Medical superintendent of Tari Hospital Dr Hamiye Hewali said Kami would continue to receive fluids in drips until he regained his strength.
The doctor said blood tests would also be taken to examine the presence of any foreign substance and, depending on the outcome of the tests, appropriate medication would be prescribed for the patient.
Policemen who took Kami to the hospital said he lived on wild taro and fern leaves during his 52-hour ordeal.
Commander of Operation Paijele Haminye acting Chief Supt David Manning thanked the villagers for saving Kami’s life and said investigations would be conducted into the matter.
Locals said according to traditional beliefs, spirits guarding the forests did not accept foreigners.