He’s washed up from the mercenary tradition of the swamps. D-MAC (David MacMillan) had moved to Asia when outback Queensland became too tame. Vung Tau is a good base for filmmaking sorties in dodgy places where he has learnt the dark arts of clearing land mines and excavating killing fields.
Under the full moon, Jesus watched over it all, his arms outstretched on the hill. We are in Team Bone Squad territory in Vung Tau, Vietnam.
Vung Tau is flypaper for humans, baited with beaches and bakeries, bikes and bars. Dave took us off-road on motorbikes, up a mountain creatively named Nui Nho (small mountain). It’s headquarters for Team Bone Squad.
He wants to show us old graves near the ruins of an old French Garrison from around the 1870′s. “The Vietnamese aren’t interested in history, they are only interested in making Dong and the present.”
We ride down a foot track track through two-meter grass. “One slip and you are dead mate, long way down to the South China Sea” says Dave. Paranoid thoughts about being confronted by a bamboo viper or a carpet snake keep running through my mind. We get deeper and deeper into their territory.
High on the hill we arrive at the ruins of an old French gunpowder magazine. Next to it are two graves of Chinese merchants. Further on remnants of an old French Naval gun battery lurk in undergrowth, overgrown by jungle. D-MAC is making a lot of noise. “Thump your feet. You’ve got to be careful here, there’s snakes everywhere.” Far below the tide is rushing towards the river and the Rung Sat. “They covered the whole area and would shoot down Malay and Chinese Black Flag pirates from here.”
You really shouldn’t be riding up dirt tracks with cliff drops after four beers, but it’s the kind of quixotic shit that happens when you are following in D-MAC’s steps. When I got back I drank four more. Healthy days in Vung Tau!
We are both hangover, warming up to the interview. We are in Saigon now. Tomorrow I fly back to Australia. But Dave wants to introduce us to his partner.
Scott Brantley is a professional actor, stuntman, percussionist, history buff, Judo expert and Private Investigator for the Vietnamese government. A chain smoking Australian with his own arm of the law has arrived. We are here to allay his fears that we aren’t suspicious, weird maybe…
Scott is quietly spoken and very much under the radar. He’s a social creature but prefers his own company. “If I want company, I’ll get cable.” He addresses my friend as the ‘magistrate’ or ‘ma’am.’ He’s honored to have two writers in his company tonight. He is a natural-born storyteller. I get the feeling that I’m in front of Mark Twain, as he raps on about all kinds of subjects under the sun.
Watching videos and staring at redacted pdfs and pouring over old military maps in the hot Vung Tau night and watching bears beating rhythm in the muggy air in Chinatown. We pegged Scott down and were offered first hand glimpses into the life of MIA.
Scott, who calls himself Dave’s “psychological” body-guard, was there for the 2010 Sean Flynn dig in East Kampong Cham and is a bona-fide member of Team Bone Squad. The press picked up on this dig. They created their frenzy.
Meanwhile, three years later, I’m in Saigon to get a first hand account of what happened out in the field. Scott is honored. The former Dick from Tennessee, now 53, raps on his instruments in his dingy little room as a form of tribute. This goes on for 30 minutes. There’s no windows, and there’s a cloud of smoke. Mine. I’m chain-smoking Scott’s smokes. It’s like a museum. At the foot of his bed, on the wall, is a large black and white photo taken by Tim Page of Sean Flynn, who is the subject of this interview.
We ask him what is the story behind the monkey that’s sitting on his chest of draws next to a miniature model of the civil War. “That is Vung Tau,” he explains. “That’s my only souvenir of that place. This says it all about Vung Tau to me.”
He calls the monkey DAVE’s younger son, “ bred with some sort of primate, drunken binge somewhere, here is the fetus, mummified. I just thought what an ugly arsed monkey. One thing you can say about Vung Tau is that you can make a decent rubber monkey.”
We cover the gamut. We actually run the gamut. It starts with Scott’s introduction to Bone Squad leader, David MacMillan. It then meanders through land mines, brothels, mass graves, and show stopping anecdotes. If things work out well, Bone Squad might be taken to air in the States as an ongoing reality show on MIA. This could well be Scott’s revival that has starred in films as a stunt man and extra by the director John Frankenheimer famed for Against the Wall, The Burning Season, Andersonville, and George Wallace.
Before the interview begins, Scott shows us a picture of him with the cast crew of a Frankenheimer film. Standing next to him is Jane Fonda. Scott really is a character you couldn’t make up.
I had poured over Team Bone Squad high definition footage they filmed on a Canon. There’s no doubt, that if it was roughly edited and put on YouTube, it would cause a sensation. Even Scot feels the same. “Upload it and lets generate interest.” Dave is holding onto this footage for now.
Only three weeks prior to the interview, we were on our way to Saigon from Kampong Cham province, where the 2010 dig took place. War reports broadcast in black and white, but for us it being televised in Technicolor and Dolby surround sound. “Sean Flynn and Dana Stone went down on Highway 1 in Svay Reing near Bavet and Moc Bai Tay Nin, never to be found.” The static breaks up from another age of Easy Rider – flared jeans and long thick sideburns.
A new update, “That’s where Sean and Dana were taken by the Khmer Rouge,” says Thol who for the past ten years has helped foreigners looking for MIA in Cambodia, particularly McKinley Nolan, who he helped do research for the recent documentary The Disappearance of McKinley Nolan on this defector, who chose the love of a Cambodian woman over patriotism of his country over 40 years ago.
Passing a village, I get all wired into something that is causing havoc with my emotions. Not sure if we passed a mass grave. Not sure we passed Dana and Sean, hitching a ride from the last spot they breathed as free spirits. It was an hour from Kampong Cham, and could well have been at the place the two journalists were handed over to the Khmer Rouge by the North Vietnamese informs Thol. Or where they were shot on the road, he adds. I just don’t know. But I was picking up a signal loud and clear. It wasn’t just a drug induced high. The weight of the world weighed heavy on me. I realized for once that this was not a joke. That 90 percent of Cambodians lived in abject poverty and were dealing with it the best way they could. And that two restless souls were longing for a place to rest.
Thol says the most important thing is to get Flynn and Dana Stone back to their families. He is Dave’s partner in Cambodia.
This interview with Scott and Dave offers a rare glimpse into the digs for Sean Flynn. The pilot of the program was filmed in Cambodia and Vietnam two months ago. Obviously Dave doesn’t want any bad press. He’s keen to sell it to Hollywood. He says it was the story I wrote (here) after the 2010 fall-out that made Hollywood decide to back him. “Without your story, I wouldn’t even be talking about this deal.”
Me: Lets go over stuff you and Scott chatted with us, when we first met you in Saigon. Since 2010, what is your involvement with the guy, how many missions?
Dave: I met Scott in 2009. My motorbike was parked at Scott’s agent’s place in District 1. So Scott asked his agent what I was doing. And his agent said that I’m searching for Sean Flynn. I had recently been over in Cambodia on a mission. I was doing a reconnaissance for Rory Flynn. It was the first case in Kampong Cham.
The agent asked me what does Scott have to do become part of the team. I got two bar stools, and separated them two meters. I said you got to jump from this bar stool to the other one. And not fall off. The agent wasn’t game enough to do it but Scott was. He got the job. After that we were mates.
And Scott has been working for me, on and off, since then. Scott came up to Vung Tau after I had stopped for a couple of days of R&R. And he volunteered to come on the next dig. The next day we met some people at the Minister of Public Security who organized K71, the land mining clearance outfit. They are the Vietnamese equivalent of JPAC and MIA. They took us across the border. That’s when we started working together officially.
ME: Why was your first dig, back in 2010 so dangerous?
SCOTT: The first time was the most chaotic and dangerous. We had been out there a good month. It was the two days especially, just getting out to the site that was tough. Just because of the distance, everything about it. But Dave, you know, is a fantastic investigator. He is willing to sift through thousands of pages of barely legible documents…and find the one word, the one sentence.
ME: I understand you were very close to making a breakthrough. Could we go into the dig at Pack Dong in 2010 that in many ways was a break through for Bone Squad. Also could you explain some of the conflicts going on between your team and external players.
SCOTT: Well this was my first day in the field. Anybody in their right mind would have left. The night before going into the field I heard Adam and Dave going at it non-stop, “I’ll kill this guy.” You know, just insanity. It was an evil omen of things to come.
I was in an abandoned hospital trench. Dave told me to start rolling through underbrush and see if I could find any evidence. He had previously found some. I’m in there about ten or fifteen minutes, when out of the corner of my eye I see Dave running. I stopped, and waited a minute.
If Rambo is running, I should start running now. Not ask any questions, not ask anything, and run, run, run. And basically make sure I’m staying with Rambo here. He hates me calling him that. Deal with it, live with it, face it. In the history of MIA hunting, you got Rambo. You got Chuck Norris, and you got DAVE Mac Millan.
Whatever occurrence that was, it took place out of earshot from me. I just saw him running. And so I immediately took off with him. I spaced the gap. I was hoofing it with the old man. DAVE decided Adam wasn’t running fast enough. So they stopped to sort that out in a very unpleasant manner.
I guess that’s when our loyalties started to forge immediately. He said, You and Adam start walking out of here. Start getting out of here. And I said I’m not leaving you. And he said, Look, these guys are going to whack me or whatever, you are getting out of here. I said, Your brother can go walking up the road, but I’m not leaving you man. That’s all there is to it, I’m not leaving you. And from that moment on, I guess, he said I could trust that guy now. And hopefully after the two and half years I’ve been able to earn that trust completely and totally.
ME: Let me get this right, you were sent in by Special Vietnamese forces to the border. And their Cambodia partners picked you up. And they took you out there and they wanted money. And you tried to get away from them, and you stopped ten kilometers before the clandestine site. Is that right?
Dave: It was the first mission. Adam, Scott and me stayed the night at this place on the border. Then we were taken up to the border and taken across the border by the Vietnamese and handed to the Cambodians, with one Vietnamese guy who works in conjunction with K71. Because we weren’t going to pay them their bribe they took us out to the bush. They wanted $600. We stopped maybe about 10 kilometers short of where we had to go.
ME: You are in a car with these guys who want to kill you, can you explain where they are taking you.
SCOTT: That’s when we were passed from Dave’s contacts in this country, over to the contacts across the border, and all of a sudden one guy has a uniform, and one guy doesn’t, he has half a uniform. The one with the uniform is obviously very high ranking. We had no idea. I certainly didn’t. Dave had a vague idea of our intended destination. As far as getting there, that’s another question altogether.
The deal of it is like getting passed down from the police chief of Queensland to a county constable. So when we got into Cambodia we got passed down the county sheriff. Just like in Kentucky, Tennessee, the county sheriff makes its own laws.
Dave: I told them that we couldn’t take the car any further. So we got out of the car and marched. And I kept up a real fast pace. You can lose people very easily. It’s really curvy tracks and that. And I knew the area really well and they didn’t. I marched them in. And by the time we made it to the village – it was one of the hottest days of the year – everybody was completed fucked from the heat and the walk .
The bandits collapsed when we arrived. Then I just walked up where we were digging and said, “I’m going over here, and lets start digging you lazy bastards.”
This was done to keep the pretense up. Then I walk where they can’t see me. I collapsed. I felt like I was going to die. I was burnt, dehydrated, and it was fucking hot.
Then they tried to stand over us for money. And we ran from them through the bush. And they came chasing us and fired off a couple of shots. They were military but they wanted money. One of the guys was Khmer Rouge, about six foot six or something, he was talking…
Me: Tell us about the conflict with your brother Adam, whose ear you nearly pulled off out in the field.
Dave: Well I had been working there for months. And my relationship with my brother had broken down. But it was always strained with him. He can’t deal with the stress of being out in the bush. I don’t know, he just can’t do it; working with me, and brotherly fucking shit. So he bailed and left me with a big bill.
ME: Now tell me, Adam was there wasn’t he. And pretty much you nearly pulled his ear off and said get the fuck out of here. There were shots going off, did you think you were going to die? And you decide to remain and be a hostage?
Dave: I told my team to go. When my brother threw down the cameras I took a swing at him and grabbed him by the ear and picked him up and ordered him to fucking move. And Scott told him to fucking move.
They tried to get all three of us. They wanted money. Our Vietnamese friends, from the Ministry of Public Security from the Missing People’s Bureau, kept on saying in front of those guys, “They only got plastic, they don’t have money. “They said foreigners only carry cards, and not money. But it fell to deaf ears.
Then Scott did his detective thing.
At this point my feet were torn up so I took my shoes off. I ran barefoot through the dirt. It was like 40 degrees. My feet were baking. I was running away from them with no shoes on.
SCOTT: I pulled the badge on the guy who was pulling a gun on us. And I said, I don’t care if you kill those two Australians. They don’t mean shit to me. But by god, if I go missing, there are going to be a lot of people in high places looking for me. And Dave looked at me, like keep going man, this is going great here.
Me: You also said on this dig you had hit wall?
DAVE: We had all hit the wall many times. It was the first major dig in 2010. At this point, everyone thought I was crazy because I’d been chasing it up for so long. I had gone through so much shit. Then Keith came in. We had the excavator. The guy who buried the body told us that there was a Pagoda blown up right near that site. And they used the rocks from the Pagoda, and dropped it on the guy’s body.
Where we were digging was a flat rice paddy with no rocks or anything in that immediate vicinity. What we had to do was scrape the topsoil with the excavator until we hit the rock. When we hit rock we knew we had found the body. We were using the excavator for a long time and got to a point we thought that we weren’t going to find anything.
The pressure was on me. Everyone thought I was a fucking nut job. And then we hit rock and stopped digging. Thol and I jumped in. While I was going over a rock, Thol pulled out part of a section of the skull that was in part of the wall. And at first I thought it was a coconut husk. But Thol confirms it’s not a coconut husk. “Its a a skull,” he says. I said, Oh fuck. I was shaking at that point because didn’t expect to find anything.
We worked out that the area was 20-meter square or something. And we paid the workers to put the soil back in. Once we got the bones, there was a lot of people in the village excited and even started talking. It’s Cambodia, and there’s a black market for remains of foreigners. And there’s illegal bone traders.
Me: Can you explain some of the full out from this dig?
Dave: One day I’m digging out in the field, and everyone thought I was crazy and laughing at me. But when I found the remains they completely changed their attitudes. Someone started sending out a lot of disinformation and misleading stories. So everyone was trying to find me.
So I just went from hotel to hotel with Keith to avoid them. A couple of times we almost got caught by the paramilitary police. They missed us a couple of occasions by five minutes . So to set the records straight, I called a couple of my friends who were journalists in Saigon for Asia Life Magazine, and they came over to Cambodia.
We went to the US Embassy and handed over the remains. I kept a molar for DNA testing which is now in a lab in California. We need to get test samples. We got samples from the Flynn family and Gil Koran family.
Life in Cambodia is still cheap. They killed that forestry activist, they blew him away a couple of months ago in Ko Kock. Shit happens like this all the time. If you get into a run in with the local security forces or paramilitary police they don’t give a shit. It’s not like here, they’ll just arrest you. They’ll fuck and blow you away if you step on their feet.
So yeah it did end up going straight to the top. And everybody in the US found out about it, the US government. And the Cambodian government, they didn’t give me an official sanction mission. And Tim Page was saying it was illegal. The State Department under Rory Flynn gave me permission to investigate.
Someone was saying it was like an illegal incursion. That I needed permission and all this type of shit. He made all these calls to Cambodians, saying I should be arrested. Then the governor of Kampong Cham came out and said that he had personally given me permission and a military escort. He was saying stuff that didn’t happen, but he took responsibility for it. So as soon he said that a lot of heat fell off.
Me: Why did the governor change his mind?
Dave:They didn’t want people to know I’d pulled it off without them knowing. So they decided to say that they helped me. Which I appreciated. I was doing the right thing. The governor knew I as doing a noble thing. And a few years before Hun Sen had said on national television that Cambodians have do everything they can do to assist foreigners to bring back foreigners who were killed before the bones are destroyed by time. They just want them all out of Cambodia, that’s Hun Sen idea, he doesn’t want it drag on any more. He wants it over with.
So we were on the run for a while.
Then we worked out there weren’t going to be any criminal charges we decided to hand over the remains to the Embassy. But before we knew of our Amnesty with the governor, we weren’t sure of our safety. Keith was talking to everyone who had called. I told him not to speak. And he’d say, “This is off the records,” and say it. Which became on the records.
We didn’t want to piss off the paramilitary police so we loaded up the remains in the car. When we knew that Keith and his driver Sam had the remains safely back at the guesthouse, Tol and I left on the motorbike. We expected the paramilitary police to show up. But they didn’t. It wouldn’t mean they wouldn’t turn up in Kampong Cham, though.
Me: It sounded like a nightmare. I bet the press put added pressure on you?
Dave: I was told that the Kampong Cham police wanted to arrest me.
I was just sick of everything, so I went over to hand myself in to the Kampong Cham police. But I soon realized that the police were looking for me. So I just hid and Tol looked after me. I hid in that hotel where you guys were staying. The one right next door to the balcony. Right next to the balcony, on the first floor.
So Keith called me up. And he had been financially involved in a small way in the beginning. So he called me up and asked me what was happening. I said I had identified this site that we had to dig but told him that everyone is leaving and that I’m here by myself as of tomorrow.
He came down from Sionookville with Sam and we went back out to the village where we had done the recon. I was a bit nervous because a few days before the eye- witness who gave me information about his involvement in burying the body of the foreign journalist had died of dysentery. And his grand children were recovering slowly.
It was touch and go with the kids. If one died, we’d feel responsible for them. I know what I’m doing when it comes to medicine.
Keith didn’t sort out the bill for the hotel. He just paid for the excavator.
SCOTT: It was a tough slog to get there too and these people, I mean owned nothing, a huge extended family that owned nothing. And it was Dave’s contact. And he had basically heard that he had passed away just days before.
So Dave went to pay his respect to his family and saw that one of the babies was literally dying. So he stopped all operations for the day and we rushed back to base camp in Kampong Cham. I had I had money in my pocket so between to two of us we were able to get medicine. He was able to get it back to this child.
And we were very happy to see a week later that the baby’s health had improved drastically. And it was interesting because Dave was overcome with emotion. And I looked at him, like, “This is nothing, this means nothing. They are just carbon blobs.” And he was overcome with emotion. I wasn’t.
But then two days later when we looked back on it at the footage, then he was stone cold emotionless, and I was over-come by it.
Me: So you had to get out of the area with the remains. What followed?
Dave: We got back to Kampong Cham and packed our shit up. And then jumped in the car with Keith and headed straight back to Sinookville.
I had to find somewhere where I could take the remains back. I cleaned all the remains in a room in Keith’s hotel. I had to get toothbrushes and a whole bunch of different stuff. I cleaned up the remains, took photos of it, and sent it to my friends who were in Haiti at the time after the big disaster there. My friends were anthropologists and forensic mortuary guys.
They said it looked like I had a Caucasian straight away because of the dental work.
From there, we went to Phnom Phen, and I spoke to JPAC, an MIA case officer there, and gave them a full report of what happened and what we found. And I gave them maybe four skull fragments for them to do DNA testing on. They wanted all the remains handed over but I was under strict instruction by Rory Flynn not to hand over the remains. We didn’t want to hand over the remains until we had independent data.
Then I went to the an X-ray center in Phnom Penh. The technician thought I wanted an x-ray. I said I did. I pull out a lower jawbone from my bag. He was completely shocked. At first he said, “We can’t do it, it’s an x-ray room. You need a human body in here to be able to x-ray it.” I said we got to x-ray it so lets think of something to do. So they fired the x-ray and he went into the lab to look at the negative and he started jumping up and down, saying “Easier to x-ray dead person than living person, picture more clear.”
ME: There’s a lot of land mines. How do you know you aren’t standing on land mines?
SCOTT: You don’t. One thing I take account is, apparently this place has some sort of cultivation, squared off, or buffalos. We basically stay where we know people travel. We stay on footpaths as much as humanly possible.
The last time we went out there, Dave decided we were going to do our own mine clearance operation on a large ceramic foreign object. It was a piece of masonry that was completely out-of-place. It was an impromptu marker of sorts. If there was something rigged or booby-trapped in there, it would be underneath. And because it’s an object laying there that shouldn’t be. So that’s the one give away to the spot.
Dave said, “Here’s what we are going to do. We are going to tie a rope around it. We are going to get on this other side of the mound, and we are going to pull really hard. I said the tying of the rope wouldn’t have been too difficult but it was the pulling of that damn thing up. When we moved it there was nothing there.
ME: Tell us about the munitions, we saw the footage at the museum. How did you find out it was a munitions.
SCOTT: You look at the ground. And because DAVE had honed in on this particular area. What we found interesting was the spot specifically that we were doing our work, even though it’s a good half kilometer square, is untouched. It is not cultivated.
ME: What area was this?
SCOTT: It was the last dig.
ME: Where that village was blown to pieces in ’68.
SCOTT: Yes. Have you seen the big giant map.
ME: What are some hairy moments on your digs with Dave.
SCOTT: (Pointing at map) It was that spot but everything around that spot is cultivated except for it. That’s what I find interesting. So either it’s not been cleared for mines or there is bodies in there that Cambodians don’t want to disturb.
ME: In one scene in your footage, DAVE says, “We need water Dad.” And his father, Dave Senior, says: “Get in the fucking back of the car.” I loved the way he wasn’t even interesting in you Scott . He’s tough as nails, isn’t he?
ME: And he’s a very big part of this search. Logistics, safety etc. Obviously we can go into the punch up between you and DAVE Senior.
SCOTT: Well it’s just a very stressful situation, you know, three or four people throwing orders. Dave Senior is giving orders to Dave, and he’s not going to take orders from anybody, even Dad, so shits bound to happen. At his age, he runs like a teenager. He’s a very essential person to the operation. We couldn’t have achieved what he did without him. But that narrows it down, I’ll tell you now. There’s only about three or four of those people that are available, Keith, the father, hopefully myself.
ME: So you were all going for it, you said you were sick of whining and carrying on. I did hear one two-three action before this happened.
DAVE: That always happens when you are shooting. When the conflict is happening, while it’s happening, you keep on filming.
SCOTT: And I told him I’m glad that my cheekbone permanently damages his middle knuckle. My cheekbone has heeled but his knuckle is permanently damaged. Every time he sees me he says his knuckle starts hurting.
ME: On one video, you are crossing the ferry to Kruch Chhmar, the island. And DAVE’s hit the wall again. You are having a heart to heart talk, saying, You really got to believe in yourself. What was going on? I also saw a similar incident, when Dave and his father were at a killing field.
SCOTT: It was midway through on the ferry ride from Kruch Chmar. Our best buddy, Joe, the owner of Mekong River Guest House had passed away. He found out he had AIDs so he took a shot of high-grade heroine and OD-ed. It really shook us up. DAVE was pretty affected by his passing. And going back Pack Dong, where Dave’s life was worth six hundred dollars then added to the stress. Now they’d do it for free.
Anne: Why was that?
SCOTT: Why was his life worth $600 dollars?
Anne: What happened at Pack Dong?
SCOTT: I guess we would have very diverging opinions at Pack Dong, and I’d have to basically let Dave’s side of the story take precedence, why his life was worth $600 in 2010 and worth nothing now. But in Kampong Cham, Joe would get paranoid about three o’clock in the morning and shut the restaurant down. He would just shut all the metal doors because he was so sure that a motorcycle would drive by and spray us with a machine gun or something.
ME: Right, you are running with DAVE, at this point of time, and checking out a clandestine grave with DAVE. You are really tired, the old man is 10 kilometers away, one instance you said we need the shovel. What was that about.
SCOTT: Oh, that was when DAVE was saying (a thick and menacing Australian accent) Stick your fucking hands in and keep on fucking digging.
ME: And you had hit the wall.
SCOTT: Oh my god I had hit the wall about 15 times. That wall had been smacked by the DMAC express. Head on, UGLY.
ME: How far from the car to the site?
SCOTT: Basically you have to keep up with DAVE. Hoofing it. The hike itself would take a good 35 minutes or 40 minute walk out there. It’s the furthest place we can actually park a vehicle. I would guess, I’m not sure, I’m just focusing on getting the hell out there….
Me: Explain in the footage, when Dave orders you to :“Stick your fucking hands in and start digging.”
Scott: While he was saying that we watched a poisonous centipede, and he’s turning around and yelling again : “Stick your fucking hands in and start digging. “The Vietnamese cameraman had seem a poisonous centipede race around and go in the hole. Now he stopped me and said in bad but English but very concerned, “Maybe die, maybe die.”
And DAVE said, “God dam it, stick your fucking hands in it.” And I said , “ Hey dude, I’m pretty sure you just heard him say that maybe it’s poisonous. I’m not sticking my hand back in there again.
Me: What’s interesting is this Dana Stone and Sean Flynn scenario, here you are being hunted down for your life and equipment. It’s almost like a repeat that’s happened. Do you feel you know exactly how they felt.
Dave: In some ways yeah. I suppose they were addicted to a certain type of life that is living it on the edge the whole time. And I can understand that because we have to live life on the edge to be able to bring them back. We take calculated risks but I don’t think they took calculated risks. They were too stoned at the time.
SCOTT: The bottom line is that I’m honored to work with Dave.. And I think Dave will admit it, my true job has been his psychological and emotional bodyguard. It’s a tough job. It’s a tough job. I dare anybody to do it. Send your CV.
Anne: You see people contributing to DAVE’s achievements, what do you consider those to be?
SCOTT: I guess the big achievement is picking up the torch that Tim Page dropped. If anybody had the torch it was him and he dropped that torch due to whatever. Dave has picked up the torch. I don’t know what Page expects. That the torch dies when he dies, down the spinal manhole in Hanoi. Or that torch will extinguish itself with the luminous life of Tim Page.
That’s the primary achievement. Dave has picked up that torch. And taking that torch where it’s supposed to be. And not in some Danger on the Edge of Town made up documentary that I bought when I thought the case was long solved. It only ran once in the US. That’s how much a fan I am, and the interest I have in the case.
The fact is that I was one of the few Americans that actually saw it that night. It’s through this childhood interest, and a meeting with Dave that I got to work with him. To look back on my life and say I was a part of this is the biggest honor. And that maybe sound like self-glorification on my part. There’s really no one to share it with it. I live alone. And if I wanted friends I’d get cable TV. You know, just to look in the mirror and say, “I did it.” I was the only Tennessee PI that was able to do it. None of the others have.
DAVE: So you see what we did, Pock Dong was historical.
SCOTT: If we have been able to repatriate one of these missing persons back to their respective families or countries, then we have achieved it. And I’m happy to be part of this.
ME: What about the first dig. DAVE had dug up the remains and you had gone back to Vietnam (to Saigon) hadn’t you?
SCOTT: Well, you know what, I feel like, my boss from America had arrived that day, basically to deliver a motorcycle to his son, is why I had to come back.
ME: Weren’t you on a mission, weren’t your allegiances to DAVE?
SCOTT: The way I had to look at it, my job was over. He knew exactly the next day what he had to do, the exhumation. But as far as the four weeks I had been there, he was good to go and no longer really needed me.
ME: Wouldn’t you have liked to been up there with Keith?
ME: You would have been a more articulate spokesperson.
SCOTT: And to be a licensed PI means something. You can engage in this activity. Just basically stalking with a license. Yeah I feel a little, but in the end, I wouldn’t take back any of it, have no regrets, none, regardless of the outcome, and if DAVE disappears off the face of the earth tonight, I’ll feel like I’ve done my job for him.
ME: Why are you doing this?
SCOTT: Two reasons in particular. One is my interest in the case from the time I was 15 years old, before Dave was even born. And really the honor of working for him, and to be the man selected to be able to work with him. Basically I look at it as his chief assistant.
ME: Dave Senior says it’s about getting them back to their family.
SCOTT: Unfortunately I was there at the table. I don’t know what Keith was saying. Sometimes I have a hard time understanding him (You fucking fuck fuck, you fucker.)
I have a hard time understanding that sometimes. So basically at the table I tuned everything out. Once I acknowledged him, he’d continue, “You stupid bastard ( slurred, loud and obnoxious drunk). You don’t know shit about anything and I know everything.” Then I just tune it out.
ME: He wanted fame and fortune and making comments to people he shouldn’t be?
SCOTT: Looking at Joe’s altar. Plus I’m thinking, what a waste of film.
ME: How long after the dig was it?
SCOTT: It was the last round. I think that was Mike who insisted on hours of footage of Keith speaking like a maniac. But he’s a great guy, don’t get me wrong, and without him I doubt we could have done everything we did. Keith is a vital person to the operation in many ways. His unyielding help (“Get the fuck up and go,”) it was encouraging when you needed it. I’m amazed.
ME: Have you two ever had it out?
DAVE: No, me and Brantley gang up on others.
ME: Well you two are always in the back. What goes on in the back of the truck?
SCOTT: Originally, the man in charge of security use to ride in the back of the truck. But after so many hundred miles, we had to physically lift him off the truck because he was injured. Man I didn’t want to ride in the front, because you had to listen to BIG DAVE, you had to listen to Mike and whoever else was in that truck.
And BIG DAVE, there isn’t a car we pass without him hurling abuse at them. “You fucking fucking wanker.” And I was disappointed that he didn’t say, “You stupid wanker.” To the thousandth vehicle we passed. And sure enough, he had a bit of time delay on it, but he did give it to them. No, I’d prefer to ride in the back, that way I don’t have to listen what’s going on at the front. I’m willing to sit in the back, and bake for 1500 kilometers. DAVE: We take photos and make up silly songs.
SCOTT: Here’s an interesting thing, I look at myself as a good person, hopefully. I really don’t have it in for anybody. But we were so desperate for amusement or happiness in one of the tenth poorest countries of the world, which is Cambodia, with the highest rate of untreatable mental illness. That’s Cambodia. Some guy on his truck with his life’s possessions piled precariously two stories high. And we have slowed down to pass him on the verge.
Finally after 45 minutes of this guy not dumping his family fortune on the side of the road for our amusement, we eventually past them. But we were so desperate for laughs. What is so sad is that we were actually disappointed that we didn’t see this guys entire family’s fortune spill out on the side of the highway ruining his family forever. Dave’s got a wrist rocket. I guess we could take the wrist rocket and shoot him with a strepsal, cough lozenge by the way.
DAVE: We didn’t do it in the end. We were too busy laughing about it.
Me: How many times have you been back in since?
Dave: I’ve spent the best part of two years now. I just changed my process when I went back in. We just got sponsors from Ford Cambodia, and a whole bunch of sponsors, RMA, JCB. Instead of going back out on bikes like we use to, we’d go out in cars from Ford. They’d give us brand new Ford Ranges.
Me: So lets get back to the last mission. The last one where you might have located Sean’s body. You need to come back in the dry season and get the radar equipment.
Dave: I’d been sent a whole bunch of documentation from the Library of Congress through a friend of mine whose brother works in MIA. It was then that I realize that all this information that I had been following was pretty bogus.
So then I started to look at it and started to think what are the chances that these guys had left this area. And I think the guys who have always had the theory that they were taken from this area and survived. Those guys aren’t really informed on history. They don’t know what they are talking about because at the time there wasn’t much communication around the area, and so many different factions operating everywhere.
And the Americans were bombing so either way they were going to be seen as spies if they were captured. And they were dressed like special forces and they were on motorbikes. That was the main way of moving intelligence around Cambodia at that time. There wasn’t phones and all that shit.
Yeah so I went out there and saw a witness. He said they were killed the same day they were captured. I went out with the locals and see if they could back up the source of the information. Another eyewitness identified that Flynn and Stone were captured by the Cambodians and taken up to their base. She has never been interviewed by the US before. She was a fresh witness too. Which is good. If you can get a fresh witness who hasn’t spoken before about this specific case, you know it isn’t tainted.
We found another fresh witnesses. He was the village chief. He came out and said he knew what happened to them but didn’t know where they were killed. He also told me about how he and another guard killed a Viet Cong so they could steal his rifle and hand grenades. So we are dealing with very nasty fuckers. But the female witness did see them being taken to the base and then moved into Gil Karon’s car that was captured the day before.
They got them to wash their feet. Their feet got dirty from walking across the paddy. They gave them water to wash their feet and all the locals were looking at them. And they said that Dana Stone seemed really nervous but Sean just acted normal like there was nothing wrong. Then they were taken into a car, and out into a village and interrogated then marched out the back through a swamp and murdered just short of the Vietnamese border. The Cambodians told them they were going to hand them over to the Vietnamese. They shot them where no body could see. They were captured about 1 pm in the afternoon and were killed at 5 or 6 in the evening. They shot them both in the back of the head.
Me: So you have located the grave?
Dave: I’ve located the killing field where the guy in question murdered them. They were military commandos. It was his killing field. But they weren’t really military, they were local village security. They were financially motivated, not politically. So all this stuff that the Vietnamese communists captured them is bullshit. There were four different cases over that week in the same area. They’d mix it up. The Vietnamese captured two of the groups and the other two groups captured by the Cambodians.
Me: Why was there spat of journalists dying at that time?
Dave: They disappeared 6th of April 1970. In a 12-day period 11 journalists were killed. It didn’t just stop after Flynn and Dana. It went on right up to ’75. In total there were 37 journalist who went missing in Cambodia.
Me: When you got back to Vietnam how did you feel about all you had been through?
Dave: Well I don’t know. I don’t know how I felt about it. Though it was all fucked up it was kind of exhilarating experience.
Me: Tell us about your interest in this case?
Scott: The way I look at it, beside the interest in the case, since I was 15 and read two biographies on Errol Flynn. Being a private detective has saved our life a few times. Well I don’t worry about it all too much. Because this thing right here covers me for everything. They know who I am and who I work for. They know who I am.
There you go, State of Tennessee, Private Investigator, and current valid license. Yeah, it’s 20 years now, 20 years now as a private eye. I’m ready to cash it in. The only reason I keep the license updated is for the work I’m doing with DAVE.
ME: Reality TV has been so saturated. But what you guys are doing is so fresh and original.
SCOTT: I don’t consider DAVE a trained actor in any way shape or form. But if you can open yourself up with tears streaming by, and let it out, no script. That’s what they pay people millions and millions of dollars to do. He’s already done it. D-MAC has done stuff that those guys can’t imagine.
DAVE: We are just doing what we are doing.
Me: Ok, what’s the future?
Dave: We are trying to get support from these ground penetrating radar companies to give us their time or their equipment to scan the area because the area has changed a lot out there. We have to work out where all the unexploded ordinances are out there. I know there is a lot in that area. There’s a chain of villagers that were destroyed by bombs. I’ll use the equipment myself. I’m going to bring in an anthropologist to help us.
Me: Dave, once you find them, how are you going to go about it differently from last time?
Dave: I don’t want to talk about that. I’ll answer it with a smile mate.
Me: Getting back to reality TV how is yours different?
Dave: I think content, its different. And we don’t pretend what we do, we just do it. We just script around the events that unfold. We need as many supporters as we can get.
If it happens cool, if doesn’t, cool . I don’t have a single regret.
Me: What is your take on this MIA mission in Cambodia Scott?
SCOTT: I guess everyone is different. But if I had a family member missing, I’d want them to be where they are supposed to be, our land, under our grave, under our family’s marker. I guess everyone is different, but in my family if somebody was out there missing there’d be no end to the search, even if it’s 40 years later.
DAVE: We haven’t made a single cent out of this. I’m just saying, we put over $100 000 into it, and we want to be able to continue doing the missions. We can’t do that if we can’t generate funds. It’s impossible, we have to give up if we don’t do something. And we are just lucky at this point of time that there’s this avenue that we can go down and fucking tap into which we’ve been wanting to tap into just so we have the finance to continue what we are doing. Scot and I have put a lot of time and effort into this and money…
SCOTT: And originally when we went out there 2010, now here in 2013, there might be a reality show in the works. There’s talk about it.
Video of Dave with a high kick
Video of Scott talking to Hollywood