An Article From The Guardian Online

6,000-mile call on mobile saves a life

Gwyn Topham
Friday March 25, 2005
The Guardian

A scientist who went missing for five days in the Malaysian jungle has been rescued after making a mobile phone call to his wife 6,000 miles away in Bolton.

Microbiologist John Gillatt, 55, survived alone on an apple, an orange and some biscuits, but told his family it was the love and support he got from their text messages that got him through the ordeal.

Mr Gillatt strayed from the path on a short walk from his hotel in the Fraser's Hill holiday resort near Kuala Lumpur last Saturday.  Realising he was lost, he spent two days trying to find his own way back, before calling his wife Noelene, who alerted the hotel.

Police sent out a search party immediately, before stepping up the hunt the following day with special forces, dog handlers and helicopters.  They advised Mr Gillatt to stay by the nearest stream or river, for water to survive, and to make him easier to locate.

They eventually found him near a waterfall six miles from where he had set out on his walk.  He was exhausted, dehydrated, and bruised but otherwise unhurt.  He said: "I never prayed before, but I was certainly praying those five days, and my prayers were answered."

Mr Gillatt, who works for a chemicals company in Cheshire, has travelled widely and lived for a year in Kuala Lumpur, but said it was the first time he had been jungle trekking.

He said: "I didn't have the telephone number of the hotel and I didn't know what to do next, so I decided to call my wife."

Speaking from their home in Bolton, Mrs Gillatt said: "When he first said 'I'm lost', I thought he was taking the piss.  And then when he said 'Noelene, I'm really lost', my heart sank.  I screeched at him, and then we got on with it.

"We spoke a few times and then we started texting because the battery was running down.  Until we lost his signal we'd arranged to text every hour.  I kept texting him to keep him informed, but I didn't know he was getting them or not.”  Mrs Gillatt described the Malaysian authorities' response as fantastic and very swift.  "These people are the heroes to me," she said.

Fraser's Hill is on a mountain range about 65 miles north of Kuala Lumpur, with a number of walking trails. Malaysian police have advised visitors to inform their hotels if they want to trek in the jungle.

Despite his ordeal, Mr Gillatt said he would "recommend trekking through the rainforest to anyone."

However, Mrs Gillatt said: "I'm not sure I will let him loose again, without being tagged."

One of his two daughters, Claire, 29, said: "We haven't really slept for five days since we knew he was missing.  We are just glad he is safe."

The family's last text from Mr Gillatt came as he was taken back to his hotel yesterday.  It read: "My darlings and friends.  My battery about dead.  How will I sleep in a bed after four nights under stars?  Your love got me through.  Love you all."