Scottish couple’s trip ruined by ‘armed’ gang of shepherds

Matthew Kidd and Jessica Gray at a press conference following their ordeal, with the two accused men with their heads covered.  Picture: SWNS
Matthew Kidd and Jessica Gray at a press conference following their ordeal, with the two accused men with their heads covered. Picture: SWNS
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A SCOTTISH couple on a round-the-world trip were forced to cross a river in India in an inflatable dinghy to escape the clutches of an “armed” gang of shepherds.

Jessica Gray, a former student from Edinburgh University, and her boyfriend Matthew Kidd were just three weeks into their trip of a lifetime and camping on the shores of the River Ganges when they were attacked.

Matthew Kidd and Jessica Gray on their boat rowing to safety.

Matthew Kidd and Jessica Gray on their boat rowing to safety.

The pair told police two men asked them for a selfie – before attempting to rob them at “gunpoint” using what turned out to be a stick over a tea towel.

The brave pair were held up for an hour before they managed to leap into the river, swim to their boat and then row across to a neighbouring village for help.

A video shows Jessica, 28, and Matthew, 30, on the safety of the opposite river bank trying to explain what happened to local rescuers.

Matthew can be heard saying: “They threatened us with a gun. We were there for about an hour. It was a long time.”

Speaking after she was rescued, Jessica reportedly told police: “We had just set up the camp in Pandarak and were about to start preparing our dinner.

“We noticed that some people were coming towards us.

“They pointed guns at us, demanding money. When we told them that we didn’t have any money for them, they started abusing us physically.

“We somehow managed to free ourselves from their clutches after an hour and jumped onto our boat. We paddled briskly to cross over to the other side of the bank where local people came to our rescue.”

The couple embarked on their trip on September 14.

It is understood they were mid-way through a 500km boat trip along the Ganges from Haridwar to Kanpur, and were attacked in Pandarak.

Jessica and Matthew claim they initially refused to hand over cash, before relenting when the two men pointed a weapon at them. He said they tried to give them 400 rupees before escaping.

The villagers they found on the other side of the river informed police, who arrested two men around four hours later.

Manu Maharaj, Senior Superintendent of Police of Patna, said: “Both the accused were traced and arrested from near the banks of the Ganges last night.”

According to their blog, the pair plan to cross into Nepal to reach Everest Base Camp on foot – in kilts – after completing their kayak trip on the River Ganges.

A post from Jessica on her blog said: “Friday 11th August 2017 marked my last day working in London. A week later, I was packing up my room and leaving the city that I have called home for the last two years. Why? To live my dream of travelling the world and making the life-changing decision to do it with my boyfriend.

“When the opportunity arose to travel with Matt, I grabbed it with both hands. That’s what life is all about, living the life you want to lead and sharing it with someone you love. I’ll be travelling with someone who is equally as passionate about discovering new places, learning new languages and full of enthusiasm for adventure.”

newen@edinburghnews.com