How a British doctor

Shielded mercenaries










VICTORIA – An English doctor saved two mercenaries from being shot by Tanzanian soldiers as they lay shackled to beds in a Seychelles hospital.


Dr. Desmond Fosbery, 42, shielded the men – one a Briton, the other a Zimbabwean – by standing between them and the soldiers.

He raised his arms and told the soldiers: “Before you kill them, you will have to shoot me. They are my patients and I am responsible for their lives.”

And Dr. Fosbery, a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, must have been an imposing sight. He is tall and gaunt, dresses in yellow Buddhist robes and wears his hair in a bun at the nape of his neck.

His action saved the lives of Bernard Carey and Aubrey Brooks, left behind in the Seychelles after the abortive coup in November last year.

But Dr. Fosbery, a converted Buddhist, dismisses his bravery.

“As a Buddhist I believe one life is just the continuation of the last. So if I had been killed it would have been merely a transition from one life to another.”
Desmond Fosbery

The folowing day soldiers took the men from the hospital, although Dr. Fosbery said they were too ill to leave.

Mr. Brooks had a bullet wound in the thigh and Mr. Carey several broken ribs after being beaten with rifle butts. Mr. Brooks had also been beaten and had a black eye.

Allegations of torture were made during the trial of the six mercenaries in Victoria this week. Most face the death penalty for alleged treason.

Dr. Fosbery’s medical reports on Mr. Brooks and Mr. Carey were handed into the court in a plea of mitigation by former Scots Solicitor-General Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn.

I spoke to Dr. Fosbery aboard his boat ‘Jaho’, a Tahiti Ketch moored in Victoria Bay which has been his home for the last two years.

This week he returned to England after fulfilling a 30 month contract as a surgeon for the Seychelles Government.

Recalling the hospital incident he said: “The situation was critical. Tensions were running high. It was only a few days after the attack on the airport and the faces of the Tanzanian soldiers were full of hate.

“It was a Sunday night. Before I went off duty I checked on the two patients who were kept in a separate ward under guard.”

The Guards had handcuffed the two to their beds, but Dr. Fosbery had insisted that they leave the men at least one hand free.

Later Dr. Fosbery received a phone call from the ward nurse, who said the two men wanted to see him immediately.

The soldiers guarding the two men had been joined by others. They had told the nurses on duty to leave the ward and said: “When you hear shooting keep your heads down.”

Dr. Fosbery said: “I could feel the tension as I walked in.”

He demanded of the officer in charge why the men had been shackled again.

“I said they were ill and needed treatment.

“The officer did not reply and Carey shook his head, saying ‘They’re not going to take any notice, doctor, they’ve decided they are going to shoot us’.”

Dr. Fosbery simply stepped in front of the beds, opened his arms wide, and told the soldiers they would have to shoot him first.

The officer hesitated. The soldiers lowered their rifles but demanded they take the mercenaries away.

Dr. Fosbery refused. He said the two men were not ready for discharge and demanded that the soldiers manacle them in the way they had found them.

The officer then approached a more senior member of staff who said he could not interfere with Dr. Fosbery’s patients.

For the next four hours Dr. Fosbery, watched by six soldiers, stayed with his patients as the tension gradually lessened.

He went home at 1am but at midday nurses reported that the soldiers had taken the mercenaries away. Dr. Fosbery protested and was told to submit a report.

As Mr. Carey was a British citizen Dr. Fosbery told the British High Commissioner.

The men were apparently beaten up again. Mr. Brooks’s teeth were smashed and his nose was broken but he set it himself.

On November 25 he was injured in the attack on the army barracks, but wandered away and passed out.

Mr. Carey had refused to leave the island on the Air India Boeing as Mr. Brooks was missing. They met up and went into hiding for a day but decided to give themselves up to the police so Mr. Brooks could get medical attention.



Doctor tells how he prevented Tanzanians

From killing captured Seychelles mercenaries



By Pat Sculley


DESMOND FOSBERY, the man who risked his life to prevent summary execution of two mercenaries in a Seychelles hospital, this week told how he faced down a Tanzanian firing squad as they took aim at their prisoners.





The former consulting surgeon of Victoria Hospital has arrived in Durban 14 months after Mike Hoare’s botched attempt to overthrow the socialist Government of President René.

He arrived aboard his ketch ‘Jaho’ en route to St Kitts West Indies.

Fosbery, a practising Buddhist who wears a gold earring and Chinese-style khaki tunic, told how he challenged the Tanzanian soldiers to ‘shoot me first’ as he stood before the battered Aubrey Brooks and Bernard Carey who were manacled to their hospital beds.

They didn’t. He tried to telephone President René. When he returned to the ward he found the soldiers gone and the two men alive.

The nights of drama started with a call to treat a Tanzanian soldier for a gunshot wound.

He thought nothing of it at the time as the Tanzanians handled their weapons carelessly and often had accidents.

Later that first night wounded Seychellois and Tanzanian soldiers were admitted in a steady stream and treated for their injuries. The casualties had been caused by the Seychellois and Tanzanian troops firing on eachother in the mistaken belief that each other side were the mercenaries. Except for a handful, these had long since flown out on the commandeered Air India Boeing en route for Durban.

He treated the Tanzanian and then hospital staff was told to remain on standby to treat a large number of people with gunshot wounds.

A few nights later he was again summoned to the hospital.

“When I got there I was taken to a ward where I found two bruised and battered white men lying manacled to their bedsteads surrounded by glowering Tanzanian military guards. I was told they were mercenaries who had been rounded up after fleeing from the airport battle.

“Carey was in an extremely serious condition – multiple bruises and abrasions covered his head, limbs and entire body. His ribcage had been smashed in (he told me later that he had been repeatedly jumped on by the Tanzanians), and his hands were swollen from continual torture.

“Brooks was in an equally bad shape. He had a bullet wound in the back of a thigh which had not been trteated although it was three days old, and his face was unrecognisable and grossly swollen from the battering it had received. Like Carey’s his body was a mass of black and blue contusions and abrasions from head to foot.

“Both men were han-cuffed to the bedhead frames with their arms stretched over their heads.

“Despite my insistence, the guards refused to unlock the handcuffs so that I could properly attend to the prisoners’ injuries. With difficulty I carried out an operation on Brooks’s leg and bathed and dressed the men’s wounds and recommended that they be placed under intensive care.

“Brooks asked me if I could obtain a Bible for him to read and Carey begged me to stay with them as long as I could and protect them from the Tanzanians who beat them up on the slightest pretext.

“During the next few days, I spent as much time as I could talking to the men and comforting them. We spoke in colloquial English and the guards interrupted angrily whenever they could not understand what we were saynig.

“From our talks, I discovered that the men were both from Natal – Brooks from Amanzimtoti and Carey from Pietermaritzburg.

Brooks had been wounded at the airport and had wandered away from the rest of the raiders and had been left behind. Carey, his friend, had gone in search of him and also missed the Air India plane his comrades had commandeered. Brooks surrendered to the police and Carey was captured by the Tanzanian troops.

“Both men were brutally treated by their jailers in Pointe Larue prison. They often kicked Brooks on his wound. Both had been beaten with rifle butts, kicked, punched and stripped of their clothing.

“Brooks said they had threatened to cut off his testicles and take out his eyes. Their captors would come into their cells at all hours of the day or night and order them to stand up; if they were not quick enough in obeying orders they were kicked and punched. When it seemed if they were going to die from their injuries, they were taken to the hospital.

“A few nights later I was again called to the hospital and on my arrival I could hear Carey calling my name at the top of his voice. Swarms of Tanzanian troops were all over the place. When I entered the mercenaries’ ward I found the nursing sisters lying face down on the floor and a squad of troops with their weapons pointing at the prisoners. The women had been ordered to lie down to avoid being hit by bullets while the mercenaries’ execution took place.

“I could see that unless I did something quickly, the men would be killed. I leapt between the two parties with my arms outstretched and told the troops if they wanted to shoot the captives they would have to shoot me first. They shouted orders at me to stand aside but I stood my ground until an officer told them to ground arms.

“The officer told me that if I didn’t like what was being done, then I’d better phone the President and ask him what he would like done instead. I did just that, but could not get through to President René because the line was continually engaged.

“To my disgust, when I returned from phoning, the ward was empty. The prisoners had been taken away by the troops during my absence. I was unable to do anything further about the mercenaries for the Tanzanian army on the island are a law unto themselves.”

Dr. Desmond Fosbery, 42, is consulting surgeon to the Government of Seychelles. He is an FRCS (Eng.) and an FRCS (Edin.). He studied at London University. He practised in the English Midlands and West Country; was a ship’s doctor on the “Orcades” (Orient Line) and was Government Surgeon on St Kitts, West Indies. He is now on a year’s furlough and is sailing his 30ft. ketch from Seychelles back to St Kitts.