Landmines may still lie near border

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 January, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 January, 2000, 12:00am

LANDMINES planted in the New Territories border area during 1967 riots could still be there, the Sunday Morning Post has discovered.

Fears over uncleared anti-personnel weapons come a week after the Post revealed that a group of former Hong Kong police officers who suffered horrific injuries when they walked into an unmarked minefield 32 years ago are demanding compensation from the British Army.

The men were stationed in the border area during the 1967 communist riots when they went into a minefield near the Pak Fa Shan police post on December 4, 1967.

They were never told landmines had been laid there and official records do not mention the incident.

A former military official - who declined to be named - but who served in the border at the time said: 'It wasn't quite a war situation but it was close and there were lots of mines planted which were never marked.

'For some time afterwards there were cases of dogs picking up the mines and getting their heads blown off. I wouldn't be surprised if there are still some there today,' he said.

Former police sergeant Chung Kin-wah, 52, lost the bottom half of his right leg in the Pak Fa Shan blast. Five other police officers and two British soldiers were hurt.

There is no public record of a formal army board of inquiry into the blast.

Meanwhile, following last week's story, former British army officer David Pettigrew, who was one of the first on the scene of the blast, contacted the Post.

He has told of the chaos after the explosion and shown statements he gave to lawyers representing an injured man which confirm the minefield was not marked.

Mr Pettigrew, who still lives and works in Hong Kong, said: 'At the time of the incident we had been detailed to go out and mark mined areas which had not been marked.

'But the Pak Fa Shan police post was not one of them. It was a chaotic time, initially people didn't know what was going on, whether they were being shelled or not.' Mr Pettigrew also revealed that a British army sergeant, James Matchett, was awarded the George Medal for bravery after he walked into the minefield to carry Mr Chung to safety.

In his formal statement to lawyers made shortly after the incident, Mr Pettigrew detailed the moments after he saw Mr Chung lying with his foot blown off.

'It had not occurred to me that we were wandering in a minefield. There was nothing to indicate mines were laid at this place.'