The Version Interview... Kirk and Jeremy from series 2 of Channel 4's Hunted
Going off-grid is now a near impossible task. Our surveillance society catches us on CCTV up to seventy times a day, but the ever-watching eye can see much further than that.
Now everything from cash withdrawals to supermarket shopping, from telephone calls to social media posts are monitored. Our journeys are tracked, our locations are stored and our most personal of details sit on scores of anonymous databases. So is it ever possible to slip through the net in a surveillance nation?
The internet, and sophisticated tracking devices in cards and phones means it is now harder than ever to avoid detection. One expert estimates if you haven’t used your phone, bank account, email or social media for 48 hours, you’re considered dead.
But if you had to disappear tomorrow and become a fugitive, could you escape the tracks of your electronic footprint and head off grid? And just how would you go about it?
In the second series of Channel 4's hit show Hunted, a fresh group of ordinary Brits will go on the run. They will film their own adventures themselves as they take extreme measures to try to evade capture from our expert hunters. What they do and where they go will be up to them – but with a team of Hunters seeking them out and tracking them down, their task of going dark will be truly tested. Here we meet some of the fugitives, Kirk and Jeremy from series 2....
Why did you want to get involved with Hunted?
My background is that I’m a forces veteran. I’m also an amputee, I’m what’s known as a limbless veteran. That came about because I served for 16 years in the infantry, in Northern Ireland, the Middle East and Iraq. I left the army in 2010 to go and continue a career as a bodyguard back in the Middle East, and in the summer of 2013 I was injured when my vehicle was rolled in the desert just outside Baghdad in a serious incident. I lost my left arm. Hile I was recovering back in the UK I was introduced to a charity called BLESMA, the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association. They helped me get back on my feet, and introduced me to a network of like-minded people. It’s been vital to my recovery, they have made my situation so much easier. So I saw an opportunity to give something back to the charity. There was the challenge of winning a share of the £100,000. And using our escape and evasion skills from the army, it was a chance to pit our wits against the hunters.
So you’re trying to raise both money and awareness on behalf of BLESMA?
Exactly. It’s been a few years since the end of the Iraq war, and then the army leaving Afghanistan, and so this is a way of keeping the plight of veterans in the public eye. A lot of them feel very isolated. And also we wanted to highlight disabled people’s abilities. This is a physical and mental challenge, and myself and Jez, who are both physically disabled, we’re not ready for the scrapheap, we’ve still got the skills.
So when you do something like that, do you feel like you’ve got a responsibility to do well for other disabled people out there?
Absolutely, for both the veterans community and the disabled community. That was a big weight on our shoulders to do well on the show. There was quite a lot at stake.
You mentioned Jez. How did you meet?
We knew each other on Facebook and through the forums, but actually we met on a film set, because we both do a bit of film and TV extra work. So we met on the set of a Brad Pitt film set in Afghanistan. We were limbless soldiers on a film set. We just bonded from there, really. We’re both like-minded guys, very outgoing, and like to be in the public eye.
Did you go into this thinking you’d be held back because of your physical disabilities, or that you’d be at an advantage because of your military training?
You’re right, it was a double-edged thing. We were worried that they’d see our backgrounds and focus all their efforts on catching us. And with a few of the hunters being ex-military, they would know how we would operate. But we used some of our old skills – camming up, hiding in the woods, living off the land, catching rabbits, really getting into it. That was where we felt our safest, hiding in the forest. And we had everything planned down to a tee.
Was the experience what you expected it would be like?
Psychologically it was a massive challenge, because a lot of it was about psychologically outwitting your opponent. Jez and I were trained for a physical enemy, a man with a gun coming at us. But the enemy we were up against here was the state – technology, people. And one of our biggest enemies was people who were trying to help us out. People on the way could easily drop you in it inadvertently. The first thing they’d do would be grab their mobile phone, which doesn’t help you one bit.
Did you become paranoid, seeing hunters around every corner, and potential betrayal from everyone you met?
Definitely. The first 48 hours we went to an area I know well, and it felt alien to me. In the first few days on the run we didn’t get much sleep. There was a bit of sleep deprivation. Often we were in some pretty uncomfortable places. And the weather wasn’t good –it actually snowed the first day we were on the run.
Did you learn anything from watching the first series of Hunted?
Yeah. Anyone who didn’t see the first series had a severe handicap. What that teaches you is that you don’t even pick up a mobile phone. Just don’t bother doing it.
So did you just not get in contact with anyone at home?
Well, one of the challenges on the show is that you have to contact one of your close relatives. During your time on the run you’re retired to meet up with family and friends. We were successful using very, very basic methods.
You didn’t really know Jez that well before this. How did you get on?
I think our relationship grew. We knew each other’s background and training. We’re taught to be able to work as a team with people we don’t really know. Within 48 hours of being on the run, our friendship had really, really developed. We had a back-up plan to split up, if we needed to. But we built a bond, we didn’t want to turn our backs on each other. We just couldn’t do it?
What were the high and low points of the whole thing?
The high point, for me, was being put back under test conditions. I loved being out in this stressful situation. I loved our initial escape, navigating in the back of a car through country lanes. It felt like being back in the military. I loved the aspect of concealment when we were in the woods.
Bering cold, wet and stinking. We had a couple of situations where the weather was against us. One night we slept in a barn with a load of cows, which was pretty stinky. And having to say goodbye to my family on the first day was really traumatic. I’d not really been away for a couple of years, and it as tough. My wife was crying, my little girl was crying – she’s four years old. And I was leaving them with the burden of all the stresses the hunters put on them.
Looking back, is it something you’d recommend to others?
Yes, definitely. It’s a life-changing experience. If you’re at a point in your life where you want to test yourself, and you really want to push the boundaries on your own abilities, put yourself out for this. If you last one day or the whole time, it doesn’t matter. If you last a day, you’ve outwitted them for a day.
What did you learn from the experience?
It taught me to have the strength of my own convictions. If you know the answer to something, act on it. Don’t worry what anyone else says, use your instincts.
Why did you want to take part in Hunted?
I was actually asked by Kirk, because Pat, Kirk’s original partner, was having reservations and decided it wasn’t for him. Initially I said that I was too busy, but I went back to Kirk the next day and said it sounded good. I really wanted to look at seeing if I had the skills to go on the run, to keep away from the bad boys, and still enjoy myself.
You took part in it with Kirk. How do you guys know each other?
I met Kirk on film sets, initially. We did a shoot on the next Wonderwoman film, and we giot chatting away. He’s also a member of BLESMA, the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association, which I’m a member of. We knew each other indirectly from that, but we’d never met. So the first time we met was on set, the second time was via a phone call. He asked me, and I said yes.
Some time ago you suffered life-changing injuries. Can you describe what happened to you, and the nature of your injuries?
In 1982, I was serving in the Royal Marines – I’d been serving for six years – I was based up in 45 Commando in Arbroath. Returning back to work on a motorbike, I was knocked off the motorbike at high speed. The result was, I lost my right leg below the knee. The Royal Marines kept me on, which was great. But it was a desk job, and I didn’t join the Royal Marines to be sat behind a desk. I did it for eight years, and in 1990 I left the Marines after 15 years.
Did you think your military experience would come in handy? Did that prove to be the case?
It did come in really handy, without a shadow of a doubt. Obviously I can’t reveal what actually happened, but the proof will be in the pudding. You’ll have to watch to find out.
What was the reality of the experience like?
It was good fun. Me and Kirk are two totally different people – I’m a quiet person, not overly communicative unless there’s something important to be talked about. Kirk, I love him to bits, he’ll overtake a conversation. If something is asked, he’ll talk away for ages. So we had a few little tense moments between us, we both knew that. It’s the nature of Kirk’s head injury, he can’t really stay still or stay quiet. But we did have a genuinely fun time. Quite a bit of alcohol as well. We had some real good times, people throwing alcohol and money at us, which was lovely. The support we had from the people we met was out of this world.
So has this reaffirmed your faith in human nature?
Totally. Everybody we met were total strangers, and we would ask for help, and nobody ever said no. We made friends as we went along, and people looked after us and drove us miles and threw money at us. I hope we entertained them as much as they entertained us.
How stressful did you find being on the run? Did you become paranoid?
I’m a realist. It’s a gameshow. I remained boringly level-headed, I have to say. I can imagine if you haven’t been through the experiences that Kirk and I have, as serving soldiers, it might be different. I never got paranoid. Concerned with the CCTV watching us wherever we went, but generally I was quite confident in what we were doing.
What was the toughest aspect of the whole thing?
Every day you had to do a diary cam, even if you felt you didn’t have anything to say. I was having to rack my brains to say something that was actually worth using for the camera. I guess that, or the times when the cameraman wanted me to talk about something, was difficult. There was a lot of repetition and camera time. That was occasionally stressful, when you wanted to switch off and be quiet.
Did you find your disability was an issue?
Not an issue at all, other than the fact that we did quite a bit of walking. I don’t walk great distances, I cycle, and I drive. I only walk short distances. So initially, my lower back took a while to get used to the hips moving around. My hips don’t move equally. So by day two I had lower back pain, but by day three or four it had sorted itself out.
Do you feel a sense of responsibility to other people with disabilities watching at home?
No responsibility whatsoever, other than the fact that it can be a bit inspirational. I do a lot of mountain biking and road riding, and have loads of people telling me that it’s inspiring. At the end of the day, I’m happy to help people and give advice, to talk to anyone about disability. There aren’t many guys knocking on 58 that still do what I do with the disability that I have.
What were your high and low points?
The high point was being released out of the warehouse and the beginning and getting gone. There was quite a build up to that. So getting out on the run was brilliant. That and meeting individuals. Everyone was so supportive. There were lots of high points.
Did you learn anything from watching the last series?
I’ll be honest, I didn’t see the previous series. But the main thing is to avoid CCTV. CCTV is the key to everything.
Hunted, tonight, 9pm, Channel 4.