Kidnapped New Zealand pilot Philip Mehrtens sends heartbreaking message to his wife and children in chilling new hostage video a year after he was seized by bow and arrow-wielding rebels in remote Papua

A New Zealand pilot taken hostage by rebels in the forests of West Papua has sent a heartbreaking message to his wife and daughter – one year after he was captured.

Philip Mark Mehrtens, a 38-year-old former Jetstar pilot, appears thin and pale in a chilling new hostage video.

With a scraggly beard, the disheveled pilot says: ‘It’s me,’ with a nervous chuckle, before adding a few more words of encouragement to his wife Maria and six-year-old son Jacob.

“I’m OK, they’re treating me well… I’m trying to stay positive and I hope you and Jacob are healthy and doing well and getting support,” he said, forcing a smile.

“I love you both very much and miss you both very much and hope to be able to talk to you soon,” he adds.

A video has been released of New Zealand pilot Philip Mark Mehrtens, who has been held by separatist rebels in West Papua for a year

A video has been released of New Zealand pilot Philip Mark Mehrtens, who has been held by separatist rebels in West Papua for a year

Separatist rebels in the Indonesian region of Papua previously released a chilling video that appeared to show them holding guns to the head of Mr Mehrtens, a captured pilot

Separatist rebels in the Indonesian region of Papua previously released a chilling video that appeared to show them holding guns to the head of Mr Mehrtens, a captured pilot

Mr Mehrtens was working for an Indonesian aviation company on February 7 last year when he was kidnapped after landing his single-engine Susi Air plane on a remote airstrip in the mountainous province of Nduga, found in Indonesia's western half of New Guinea. landed.

Mr Mehrtens was working for an Indonesian aviation company on February 7 last year when he was kidnapped after landing his single-engine Susi Air plane on a remote airstrip in the mountainous province of Nduga, found in Indonesia’s western half of New Guinea. landed.

Mr Mehrtens said the video was shot on December 22, 2023, with the rebels waiting weeks before sharing it.

The pilot went on to explain that he met with the ‘commander’, probably a reference to Egianus Kogoya, a commander in the rebel West Papua National Liberation Army (TPN-PB) fighting against the Indonesian annexation of the territory.

Mr Mehrtens said he would also speak to the commandant about a phone call to his family.

In a second video also released last week, Mehrtens appears to address the New Zealand government and ask for some supplies to ease his time in captivity.

“Could you please help me get one or two ventolin inhalers just so I have them available in case I get asthma and if possible please get me an e-book reader like a Kindle with as many English books as possible.

‘It would be greatly appreciated,’ he says.

Mr Mehrtens was working for an Indonesian aviation company on February 7 last year when he was kidnapped after landing his single-engine Susi Air plane on a remote airstrip in the mountainous province of Nduga, found in Indonesia’s western half of New Guinea. landed.

A day after he was captured, the group said in a video that he “will die here” like “the rest of us” if the Indonesian military tries to rescue him.

Sebby Sambom, spokesperson for the rebel separatists, wrote on Facebook that Mr. Mehrtens will be held hostage for negotiations with Indonesia – but has warned that if Jakarta refuses to negotiate or intervenes militarily, the pilot will be ‘executed’.

Sambom said at the time that the rebels would mr. Mehrtens ‘never release unless Jakarta makes the Papua region independent from Indonesia.

But the Indonesian government stood firm, saying Papua would “forever remain a legitimate part” of Indonesia.

Two months ago, the separatist rebels threatened to execute Mr Mehrtens if their demands were not met, although he appears to be alive.

The group from the West Papua Liberation Army, the armed wing of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), seized Mr Mehrtens before he landed his plane on the runway in Paro in the remote Nduga district on February 7. set the fire (photo)

The group from the West Papua Liberation Army, the armed wing of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), seized Mr Mehrtens before he landed his plane on the runway in Paro in the remote Nduga district on February 7. set the fire (photo)

Mr Mehrtens was kidnapped shortly after landing in Paro in the remote West Papua province of Nguda.

Mr Mehrtens was kidnapped shortly after landing in Paro in the remote West Papua province of Nguda.

Mr Mehrtens met his wife Maria in Indonesia, before the couple moved to New Zealand and settled in Auckland after the pilot started flying for Jetstar.

The couple then returned to live in Indonesia when he resumed work at Susi Air, founded in 2004, which operates a fleet of 50 aircraft.

Separatist rebels kidnapped him after storming a single-engine Indonesian Susi Airlines plane shortly after it landed on a small runway in February.

He was scheduled to evacuate 15 construction workers building a health center in the district after the separatist rebels threatened to kill them.

“Our plan to evacuate the workers angered the rebels, who responded by setting fire to the plane and seizing the pilot,” said Nduga district chief Namia Gwijangge, who was one of the passengers.

“We deeply regret this incident.”

The rebels released all five passengers because they were indigenous Papuans, rebel spokesman Sebby Sambom said at the time.