Rescued colonel defends 'challenging' expedition

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Five soldiers rescued from Mount Kinabalu in Borneo were flown to Hong Kong yesterday to be reunited with their families at the British military hospital.

The expedition leader, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Neill, 46, of the Royal Logistics Corps, described himself as 'a humbled man' but defended taking his men down the hazardous 7,000ft Low's Gully. He said: 'The expedition was a justifiable challenge and met all the criteria of army adventure training.'

However he confessed: 'We will never be the same people ever again.' Hope, more than food, was the key to survival. 'We kept going because we didn't want to die and we had loved ones.'

Then, in a remarkable expression of humility, he said: 'I failed. I obviously came very close to death. That is not acceptable . . . . I almost lost everybody.'

The five, who lost about 20 per cent of body weight during their four weeks trapped in the jungle, were expected to stay in hospital for several days, where their diet will initially consist of juices and ice cream.

Another try, page 10

James Fenton, page 14

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