A pioneering tour leader has suffered a massive stroke while in Iraq –and his family has been refused permission to organise a medical evacuation.
Geoff Hann, 85, was on his “farewell tour” – the final trip of dozens to destinations regarded as high risk. He had taken a group on a tour that included Baghdad, Mosul and the ancient cities of Mesopotamia.
His partner, Tina Townsend-Greaves, described it as “one last hurrah to his beloved Iraq before retirement”.
But, she said: “At the end of a wonderful trip he suffered a stroke and is now lying in hospital in Baghdad, unable to speak, miles from home and alone.”
Ms Townsend-Greaves has created a GoFundMe page called “Get Geoff Hann Home”.
More than £10,000 was raised and a medical evacuation team organised. After five days doctors declared him fit to be medically evacuated home.
But the Iraqi authorities refused to allow Mr Hann to be discharged – because two members of the tour he organised were arrested at Baghdad while trying to leave the country. The pair were accused of trying to smuggle out antiquities concealed in their baggage.
Police want to interview Mr Hann about the incident. They have confiscated his passport and will not let him leave the country.
Mr Hann is not under arrest. There are no allegations he was involved in the alleged crime, and he gives explicit advice against antiquity smuggling.
Ms Townsend-Greaves said: “Despite the British Embassy explaining Geoff can’t speak, can’t walk and is cognitively impaired the judge was not swayed and refused to rescind the order for him not to leave Iraq.
“There is a guard on Geoff’s hospital room door preventing visitors, Geoff is naked in bed under a blanket as he has no clothes, he is being fed basic hospital food which is pretty poor, all his belongings, toiletries, money, clothes are unaccounted for.
“It must be a month since he last brushed his teeth or his hair, washed, shaved, and we know he is incontinent and has not left his bed in the last four weeks.”
British diplomats are now trying to get medical evidence from the doctors to show the extent of the stroke.
Ms Townsend-Greaves writes on the GoFundMe page: “I am sad, and angry that a country Geoff has promoted and taken tourists to for many, many years, have repaid him like this.
“He has brought many hundreds of thousands of pounds into the country over those years. Now finally when he is broken, sick and helpless rather than let him go back home they have stabbed him the back.”
She called him a “great explorer, a great traveller and a great man” who “deserves to end his journey at home”.
One donor, Claudette Picard, wrote: “I had an exceptional trip in Iraq with Geoff last October.
“Truly-grief stricken at what has happened. Hope he can be repatriated soon.”
Mr Hann began running “Austin Midi-bus” tours between London and Kathmandu in the 1970s, visiting Aleppo, Damascus, Baghdad and the Khyber Pass. His current adventure company, Hinterland Travel, is based in West Yorkshire.
He also contributes to Bradt travel guides. Hilary Bradt, who founded the publisher, managed to persuade GoFundMe to release the funds for the medical evacuation. She said: “His condition has deteriorated and he is now nearing death, on his own, pointlessly and humiliatingly.”
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “We are providing consular support to a British national in Iraq and are in contact with the local authorities.”
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