Journey to Hell


A one hour investigative documentary for TV One that will aim to uncover what happened to drug trial guinea pig David Oakley – a New Zealander whose overseas adventure turned into nightmare…

For New Zealanders an overseas trip is a right of passage with one in five Kiwis abroad at any one time. For most it’s an exciting adventure that broadens their horizons, but for some ordinary Kiwis that overseas dream has ended in mystery, misery, or death.

For the year ending June 2006, 134 New Zealanders died overseas and 301 sought help from consular services after been arrested or ending up in a foreign jail (The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade annual report 2005/6).

Journey to Hell looks at the plight of drug trial guinea pig David Oakley, a New Zealander whose misfortune captivated the country.  Known in the press as the modern day “elephant man”, his reaction to the test drug was so severe that his face blew up to three times its normal size. Oakley has developed early stages of cancer from the botched drug trial in London in 2006.

David is too ill to hold down a full-time job. He works part-time as a driving instructor. His joints are fiercely painful, and a short walk leaves him gasping for breath and he is constantly exhausted. His concentration has been ruined and his short-term memory is so poor that he has to write everything down. David has been diagnosed with the early signs of lymphatic cancer. David’s lawyer is battling for compensation.



Promotional Trailer

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Production Details

Producer: John Bates

Thanks to: David & Katrina Oakley

Exec producer: Nigel Snowden

Network exec: Jude Callen

Director: John Bates

Researchers: Amanda Rees, Katia Struder

Script editor: Karen Bates

Online editor: James Gardner

Offline editor: Peter Roberts

Production manager: Hebe van Schagen

Production assistant: Linda Loevoll

Camera: Brian Nelson, Stephen Huntley (UK), John Ramsay

Sound:  Dale Nelson, Derek Bruce (UK)

Gaffer: Spencer Locke-Bonney

Music: Tom Ludvigson

Production accountant: Odile Berry

Assistant accountant: Heidi Salter

Funded by: TVNZ