Queensland police have saved a backpacker after she sent panicked texts to her dad in the UK, saying she was being held by a man who believed he was an alien.
Mary Kate Heys, 20, got into a car with a Swedish traveller she’d befriended at a Sunshine Coast hostel, realising he was in a manic state, but believing she could help him.
Police said the 22-year-old man told her they would drive to Brisbane, but instead he turned north and headed for Cairns, leaving the young Brit fearing for her safety.
When she realised she was in trouble, she sent panicked messages to her father in the UK, asking him to call local authorities.
Police started searching for the car, and managed to intercept it about 90km away, at Gympie, before dawn on Monday.
The man has been taken to hospital where he’s being treated for a serious mental health condition. Ms Heys has since withdrawn a police complaint against her friend.
Police said her efforts to get help were “unconventional” but effective.
“I suppose it worked in the end, and that’s the main thing,” a police spokesman told AAP.
Ms Heys told The Courier-Mail she got into the car with her new friend because she could tell he wasn’t in a good way and she was worried about him.
But she realised she was in trouble when he “took off really fast”.
She said she sent SOS messages to her dad while pretending to use maps on her smart phone to direct him.
“I sent him a message no parent ever wants to get,” she told the paper.
“I was using maps to direct him to Cairns and I kept pretending there was something wrong with the app so I could secretly message my dad to call the police.”
She said her father did as she urged, and she continued to send on her location details.
In one message, she told her father: “He thinks he’s an alien”.
The pair made a stop at a service station before the intercept, where the traveller also sought help.
“I told the woman at the counter don’t look out the window and draw attention but can you please call the police and take down that number plate because the man I am with won’t let me leave,” Ms Heys said.
When no help arrived, that’s when she decided to seek help from her father who kept police in the loop about her whereabouts.
Ms Heys said the relief was overwhelming when a police car caught up with them, and pulled them over.
“I didn’t even wait for it to stop moving, I just ran out because I was so terrified.”