BBC Newsman says Vaccination he Received Made him Believe he Was the Devil

'You don’t give up’: two years after the start of his ordeal, life remains tough for Malcolm Brabant, his wife Trine and son Lukas (Photo: Clara Molden)
‘You don’t give up’: two years after the start of his ordeal, life remains tough for Malcolm Brabant, his wife Trine and son Lukas (Photo: Clara Molden)

Malcolm Brabant’s face – round, ruddy, full-featured, and crowned by a bald dome – is immediately recognisable. For 30 years he has been an award-winning member of the BBC’s team of foreign correspondents, bringing wars, natural disasters, political stand-offs and occasionally something a bit more cheerful into our living rooms on the evening news.

If the countenance is familiar, though, his current location isn’t. His usual on-screen sign-off is ringing in my ears — “Malcolm Brabant, BBC News, Athens” – but today he is welcoming me into his home in Copenhagen.

He is, he explains, currently living in exile from the Greek capital, and thereby “missing one the biggest news stories of my career”. The reason is the biggest personal story of Brabant’s 58 years. As he puts it with what I quickly learn is characteristic bluntness: “I went bonkers.”

In April 2011, he attended an Athens clinic for a routine vaccination against yellow fever before an assignment in the Ivory Coast. As well as reporting from Athens, he has also travelled the globe to cover international stories, winning a coveted Sony award in 1993 for his reporting from a besieged Sarajevo at the height of the Bosnian crisis.

His reaction to the vaccine, however, was anything but routine. “It fried my brain,” he states simply. Overnight a previously sane man developed severe psychosis. An agnostic, Brabant became so convinced he was the Messiah that he telephoned his bemused fellow correspondent, Allan Little, to appoint him “first disciple” and ask him to record his words of wisdom.

One minute he was announcing that the Queen was aware of his divine status, the next he was claiming to be able to stop the traffic just by thinking about it, and control all technology. To prove the point, he flushed his Kindle down the lavatory.

It was utterly bewildering for those around him, especially when he switched into the persona of Winston Churchill, and then the Devil. Yet, because he had no insight into how strangely he was acting, Brabant also attempted to carry on reporting, with results that horrified previously admiring editors at the BBC.

With the corporation’s support, he was sent to hospital in Athens, then released, but shortly afterwards he experienced a second mental breakdown. Unable to work, broke and broken, he returned to his childhood home in Suffolk where he tried and failed to get the help he needed from the NHS. While there, and out of control mentally, he presented himself, clad only in cycling gear but minus a bike, at BBC Television Centre in West London, which was being picketed in a pay dispute. He demanded to see senior managers and generally caused such a scene that the police were called.

“I was the man in Lycra, come to solve the strike,” he recalls without flinching. “I really thought in my madness that I could do it but, of course, I was away with the fairies. That will have been the last time many of those people at the BBC saw me face to face.”

Click here to continue reading…

i

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s