Tue, 07 Apr 2020
FOR just over three weeks, Newbury couple Ella Tomkins and Jessica Warr traversed the length and breadth of the country, on the run from a team of specially-trained ‘hunters’.
The girls were taking part in Channel 4 reality TV series Hunted, aiming to avoid detection for four weeks to scoop a share of the £100,000 prize money.
They camped in the wild and took shelter in strangers’ houses, desperate to keep hidden from the hunters, who seemed to have eyes on every corner.
Just three days before extraction, however, the duo – who had returned to Newbury for some comfort and to replenish supplies – found themselves cornered in woodland behind a contact’s house and were captured.
Reflecting on the experience, Jessica and Ella – who met when they were at St Bartholomew’s School and got engaged earlier this year – said the entire experience was “bonkers”.
Jessica said: “It was stressful and crazy from the outset and the filming got crazier from the day of the launch.
“We didn’t know where we were being dropped off or who was in the area to help us, so the whole thing was absolutely nuts.
“We learnt a lot about each other along the way and we met some absolutely incredible people.”
Ella continued: “I think that’s the thing to note – the show is cut down so much that you don’t get to see the unsung heroes, the people who got us from A to B, the random strangers that gave us £10 or took us in.
“When we came away and were discussing the highlights, that was it – all the people you meet along the way.
“You can’t really believe the kindness of people – the extent that they helped us was incredible.”
Jessica and Ella’s adventure started in Bristol, where they split from the other eight contestants.
From there they headed to Hampshire, before making the journey north to the Peak District and then even further north into the Yorkshire Dales, where they spent a few days camping in the wilderness.
After narrowly escaping capture at the Galphay Inn near Ripon, the girls travelled up to Durham and then Scotland, before coming back south via the Lake District and North Wales.
The couple then returned to Newbury – only to discover that the hunters had anticipated their arrival and put up ‘wanted’ posters all over town.
Jessica – wearing a blonde wig and flat cap to avoid detection – liaised with hairdresser Sarah Riggott and arranged a rendezvous with a getaway driver.
However, the duo were tracked to the driver’s house and, after a brief dash for freedom, they were caught.
When the couple were finally captured, they were just hours from learning the location of the extraction point – the place where they would escape from the hunters for good.
Jess admitted that they were devastated to be caught so close to the finishing line.
She said: “We were absolutely gutted.
“You put blood, sweat and tears into it – and when you get as far as you did, you start believing that potentially you can do it.
“You start allowing yourself to think the end is in sight.”
Following the filming of the show, the girls got engaged in Wales and were all set to travel around the world until the coronavirus outbreak.
Ella added: “I thought if we can survive Hunted, then we can survive anything.”