Christopher Wenner, former Blue Peter presenter who, as Max Stahl, became an acclaimed war correspondent – obituary

Asia's Tech News Daily

Christopher Wenner in his Blue Peter days – Ken Towner/ANL/Shutterstock

Christopher Wenner, who has died from throat cancer aged 66, spent two years as a Blue Peter presenter before making his name as the war correspondent Max Stahl, a variation on his mother’s maiden name; he covered conflicts in Lebanon, Chechnya and Serbia, was interrogated on several occasions and spoke of having once being involved in “a James Bond chase”. He was best known, however, for filming the massacre of at least 250 peaceful protesters in East Timor in November 1991, an atrocity that eventually led to the former Portuguese colony’s independence from Indonesia.

Wenner had entered East Timor with the documentary maker Peter Gordon to film a diving video, but learnt that there would be a pro-democracy demonstration during a funeral at the Santa Cruz cemetery in the capital, Dili. He described a crowd of about 2,000 people making their way through the streets “waving the flags and banners of the occupied colony’s independence parties”.

“They were almost all students and young people,” he said. “There were women and even some children protesting against the invasion of their country 16 years ago and its subsequent bloody and illegal ‘integration’ into Indonesia at a cost of 200,000 Timorese lives.”

The Indonesian military had also been tipped off about the demonstration and were lying in wait among the tombstones. When the protestors arrived, the troops opened fire. Wenner, who was knocked to the ground, scrambled for cover among the graves and began filming. “I was just getting my camera ready when there was a wall of sound, at least 10 seconds of uninterrupted gunfire,” he said. “The soldiers who arrived fired point blank into a crowd of a couple of thousand young people.”

He recalled the protesters screaming as they fled towards the cemetery gate, creating a bottleneck in the entrance: “Then the wedge broke, and the people poured screaming through the gap, trampling over the bodies, the wounded and the whole alike.” Expecting to be arrested, he buried his footage in a grave. After being questioned for nine hours he returned at night to exhume his film under the cover of darkness. The next day Saskia Kouwenberg, a Dutch reporter, smuggled the tapes out of the country.

Wenner’s subsequent documentary, Cold Blood – The Massacre of East Timor (1992), for a Yorkshire Television First Tuesday documentary, discredited the Indonesian government’s denials that an atrocity had occurred. He insisted that the episode had not, as the authorities claimed, been a bureaucratic accident, adding that relatives who came to inquire about the missing and the dead were detained and interrogated.

Despite the slaughter, Wenner reported that the following morning “there were smiles on the faces of many Timorese”, because not only had foreigners filmed the event, but some had also been beaten up, which would draw the world’s attention to the genocide: “This, they believe, may lift a little the curse which is worse than oppression and death for Timorese, the curse of their total and relentless isolation in their struggle.”

Christopher Max Wenner was born in Kensington, west London, on December 6 1954, the third of four sons of Michael Wenner, a wartime commando and subsequently British ambassador to El Salvador, and his Swedish wife, Gunilla (née Stahle). He followed his father to Stonyhurst College, Lancashire, and while at Balliol College, Oxford, was a member of the dramatic society, playing Orestes in Electra.

Christoper Wenner (left) with fellow Blue Peter presenters in 1979 – Alamy

He worked as an actor and director before joining Blue Peter in September 1978 as successor to John Noakes, who had left three months earlier. He was given some Noakes-style assignments, including abseiling down the east tower of Television Centre and working as a steeplejack. In January 1980 he was involved in an innuendo-laden exchange with Simon Groom after a report about a pair of “knockers” that had been restored at York Minster. Addressing the programme’s young viewers, Wenner said: “Why not go along to the cathedral and see if you can’t have a look at the knockers side by side.” The camera cut to Groom, who leered: “Mmmmm, what a beautiful pair of knockers.”

Wenner left the show in June 1980, the same day that his fellow presenter Tina Heath also departed, with the production team declaring him “deeply unpopular with the viewers”. He returned in 1983 and 1998 to take part in anniversary editions, including a cameo part in the 1998 Blue Peter pantomime, “Back in Time for Christmas”, and appeared as a trooper in the 1984 Doctor Who adventure “The Awakening”. Meanwhile, he had set off for Hollywood on a motorbike hoping to become a film star, but broke down and was held by border guards after crossing into Mexico.

Increasingly he turned to journalism. Dressed in worn brown corduroys, hiking boots and an Indiana Jones hat, he ventured into some of the most conflict-ridden regions of the world, reporting from Guatemala on the government’s anti-guerrilla campaign in 1982. Three years later he was in Beirut making a documentary on the Lebanese drugs trade for Channel Four when he disappeared for 18 days, though it was unclear whether he was kidnapped or simply became so absorbed in work that he failed to keep in touch.

Max Stahl receiving an award in East Timor in 2019 – Presidency of East Timor

Wenner, who spoke Spanish, Swedish, German and French, visited Chechnya in 1992 just as tensions were erupting in the break-away republic, making The Hunt for Red Mercury, about the smuggling of nuclear weapons, for Canadian television. Seven years later he was beaten up by Serb civilians while covering protests over Kosovan Albanians.

He won several honours for his work in East Timor, including the Amnesty International UK Media Award. In 2000 he received the Rory Peck award, named after the freelance cameraman killed in Moscow in 1993, and in 2008 he spoke about his work in East Timor at the Frontline Club in London.

The international outrage over the Santa Cruz cemetery massacre eventually led to a UN-supervised referendum in 1999 in which the East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence. Defying the Indonesian military by island-hopping on hired fishing boats, Wenner arrived just in time to record their fury, including an attack by 100 Indonesian marines on women and children in a refugee camp.

The country, now known as Timor-Leste, officially became independent in 2002, making it the first new sovereign nation of the 21st century. Stahl made his home there, learning the language recording its history and creating the Max Stahl Timor-Lester Audiovisual Centre in Dili, which contains thousands of hours of footage.

He sometimes told how when things get tough, broadcasters rely on freelancers like him rather than their big-name stars. “The TV companies treat it like stacking supermarket shelves – they have to fill the shelf, but they don’t want to pay out the big money for insurance, or to put their own people at risk,” he told The Guardian. “You never get the money or time upfront from TV companies – maybe you can get an aid agency to give you some help, but the backing is not there from the big corporations.”

Christopher Wenner’s first marriage, in 1984, to Liz Trubridge, a television producer, was dissolved. Latterly he was living in Brisbane, Australia, and is survived by his wife, Ingrid (née Bucens), a paediatrician, and his four children.

Christopher Wenner, born December 6 1954, died October 28 2021

Internet Explorer Channel Network
Asia's Tech News Daily
News Related


Warning over pilots' lack of flying after ‘serious incident' involving Tui plane

© PA Archive The rapid descent of a Tui Airways plane could be linked to its pilots being grounded for long periods during the coronavirus pandemic, investigators said (Peter Byrne/PA) ... Read more »

Dollar General forecasts tepid sales, profit as costs surge

© Reuters/ERIN SCOTT FILE PHOTO: A person exits a Dollar General store in Mount Rainier, Maryland (Reuters) -Dollar General Corp on Thursday forecast annual sales and profit largely below expectations ... Read more »

Soccer-Inter's Eriksen starts training at youth club in Denmark

© Reuters/HANNAH MCKAY FILE PHOTO: Euro 2020 – Group B – Denmark v Finland COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Denmark’s Inter Milan midfielder Christian Eriksen has begun working out at the training ... Read more »

ECJ adviser backs rule-of-law measure in blow to Poland and Hungary

© Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP EU authorities can cut funds to member states that are corrupt and curb independent courts, a senior adviser to the bloc’s ... Read more »

Gender equality takes one step forward, three back during COVID

© Reuters/KIM HONG-JI FILE PHOTO: Women wearing masks to prevent contracting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) walk under a Christmas illumination at a shopping district in central Seoul BERLIN (Reuters) – ... Read more »

Carrick must unleash £45m-rated MUFC beast who's "like a mustang", Vidic loves him - opinion

© Provided by Football FanCast Premier League – Watford v Manchester United Manchester United will be aiming to extend their unbeaten run to three games under interim manager Michael Carrick ... Read more »

'Monzo froze my bank account out of the blue - along with £1,500 of my savings'

Read more »

Rebel Wilson's very fit physique is put on display in cropped top and skintight pants

© Provided by Hello! rebel-wilson-pink-swimsuit Rebel Wilson ramped up her new role as a Fiji Ambassador with a stunning snapshot she shared with fans during her latest adventure.  The Pitch ... Read more »

Boris Johnson news - live: Starmer says PM ‘taking people for fools' amid reports of multiple No 10 parties

© Reuters TV Keir Starmer Boris Johnson PMQS LIVE – Updated at 13:20 Sir Keir Starmer has accused Boris Johnson of “taking people for fools” amid reports 10 Downing Street ... Read more »

Something unique for Christmas: Peek behind the curtain of Gin-making at the Wessex Distillery!

© Getty Images Visit the Wessex Distillery Get a look behind the curtain of Gin-making at the Wessex Distillery! Gin lovers rejoice! Welcome to the Wessex Distillery for a botanical ... Read more »

‘Let's goooo', ‘Pls pls pls', ‘I beg' - Haaland update from Sky has many Man City fans talking

© Provided by Transfer Tavern erling haaland shoots against ajax Flocking to Twitter, lots of Manchester City supporters have been talking after a Sky Sports update on their pursuit of ... Read more »

What is the release date of Call of Duty: Mobile Season 11?

© Provided by GamePur Call of Duty: Mobile Season 11 is one of the most hyped updates of the year as it will be bringing the Christmas theme to the ... Read more »

Coronation Street reveals eating disorder plot for teen Summer after Daniel twist

Coronation Street is lining up an eating disorder storyline for teenager Summer Spellman, according to new spoilers for the ITV soap. The teen is currently caught up in a plot ... Read more »

Filipino parents need around P60K to buy basic items for newborn

© Provided by Interaksyon Data from an online market aggregator found that Filipino parents need an estimated P60,000 to the afford the basic needs of a newborn. Price aggregator iPrice released ... Read more »

Martine McCutcheon dazzles in white sequined trousers for night out with 'school parents'

© Provided by Hello! martine-clothes Martine McCutcheon knows how to dress for the festive season, and she showcased her impeccable style once again on Wednesday night as she headed out ... Read more »

Trump says he is 'not a fan' of Meghan Markle, calling her 'very disrespectful to the Queen'

© Provided by INSIDER Former President Donald Trump took a shot at Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, in a new interview, calling her “disrespectful” to the Queen and the royal ... Read more »

4 travelers from South Africa test negative for COVID-19 in Negros Occidental

© News Live B.1.1.529 variant of concern Omicron. News Live screenshot The three South Africans and one returning overseas Filipino from the said country who arrived before the travel ban ... Read more »

Mum saves £160 by making her own luxury Christmas hampers for just £4 each

A money-saving mum has created more than ten Christmas hampers for less than £55 in total – saving her over £160. Ellie Thomas, 28, a business owner from Shrewsbury in ... Read more »

Duterte: 'I've fulfilled most of my promises to the people'

AS his six-year term is coming to an end, President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday claimed he has fulfilled almost all of his promises to the Filipino people. “My term is ... Read more »

Can the tourism industry survive the climate crisis?

One of the terrible ironies of the climate crisis is that some of the most beautiful – and popular – places in the world are also the most vulnerable. Which ... Read more »

Deliveroo founder Will Shu sells £47m in shares to pay tax bill

© Provided by PA Media Will Shu, founder and chief executive of Deliveroo, has sold £47m in shares (Parsons Media/Deliveroo/PA) The founder of Deliveroo, Will Shu, has sold £47 million ... Read more »

Dublin homes: The virtual 'open house' viewings you need to check out this weekend

Isn’t technology great? Even the pandemic hasn’t stopped open house viewings – they’ve just moved online. Take a virtual wander through these fine homes this weekend: 7 Bellevue Park Avenue, ... Read more »

BSP: First batch of polymer P1,000 banknotes to arrive in April 2022

© Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas BSP: First batch of polymer P1,000 banknotes to arrive in April 2022? The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has tapped its Australian counterpart to print ... Read more »

Leinster welcome Ireland internationals back for Connacht clash

© Ben Brady James Lowe returns to Leinster duty tomorrow night. LEINSTER HEAD COACH Leo Cullen has announced his side for tomorrow’s United Rugby Championship meeting with Connacht at the ... Read more »

How to get the Gjallarhorn in Destiny 2

© Provided by GamePur Probably the most infamous weapon in Destiny history is the Gjallarhorn. This tracking, cluster bomb-dropping Rocket Launcher was known for melting anything the game could throw ... Read more »

David Tennant in new behind the scenes photos from Around The World

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo BBC‘s new adaptation of Around The World in 80 Days is set to be the star of the Christmas TV schedule. And new ... Read more »

Vassena Hudgens is the new face of Fabletics' Velour line

© Bang Showbiz Vanessa Hudgens is the face of Fabletics new Velour line Vanessa Hudgens has been unveiled as the face of Fabletics’ new Velour line. The ‘tick, tick… Boom’ ... Read more »

Soccer-Mutiny on Merseyside - Everton derby defeat piles pressure on Benitez

© Reuters/Ed Sykes Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez By Christian Radnedge LONDON (Reuters) – Everton fans were already feeling chastened after watching Liverpool sweep up accolades in recent years – ... Read more »

A Virginia restaurant owner says 22 people didn't show up to interviews, missed their first shifts, or quit hours into their first day

© A mask-clad waiter carries drinks for a restaurant patrons on the first day of more relaxed set of r… Though the industry has historically had a high turnover rate, ... Read more »

IEM Winter 2021: results, schedule, bracket

© Provided by Dot Esports Sixteen of the best CS:GO teams in the world have traveled to Stockholm, Sweden to compete at IEM Winter, a $250,000 LAN tournament. This is ... Read more »

Out of touch: South Africa's dated Africa foreign policy may be triggering decline in nation's undisputed soft power

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s trip to West Africa this week is an opportunity to fix SA’s image problem on the continent. © Copyright (c) Daily Maverick , All Rights Reserved The ... Read more »

The 'Dumbbell Lateral Crawl' Is The Best Move You're Not Doing for Six-Pack Abs

Leg day might traditionally be regarded as the least enjoyable of your weekly sessions, but core day is a strong contender, too. True, a solid midsection will bolster your performance ... Read more »

Antonio Conte hints Tottenham are "paying" for errors made in Mauricio Pochettino reign

Antonio Conte believes Tottenham are “paying” the price for not replacing key players since he left his role at Chelsea. The current Spurs manager was in charge of the Blues ... Read more »

Enough is enough! People are tired of hearing about Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith's sex life

© Provided by Independent Online (IOL) One’s sex life is meant to be a private affair. For most people, sex is a topic they would rather not talk about. Not ... Read more »

Winter is here: Seven tips to help you cope with seasonal depression

If you need assistance with any issues raised in this article, consider talking with your GP, or speaking with a Samaritan by message or phone call via their website.  © Getty ... Read more »

Swansea City would be heading in the right direction if they seal this transfer agreement: Opinion

© Provided by Football League World Premiership – Celtic v Heart of Midlothian Swansea City are set to assess their options when the January transfer window opens, with Russell Martin ... Read more »

Mapisa-Nqakula to decide on use of secret ballot in Ramaphosa no confidence vote

© @ParliamentofRSA/Twitter Speaker of the National Assembly Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. CAPE TOWN – National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula will have to take a fresh decision on whether or not there should ... Read more »

Lewis Hamilton explains overcoming 'impossible' feeling to catch Max Verstappen

Lewis Hamilton has admitted that he felt catching title rival Max Verstappen in the Formula One title race was ‘impossible’ at one point this season. The Brit was speaking ahead ... Read more »

'Deserves better' - Man City warned of Raheem Sterling treatment amid speculation

Former Manchester City midfielder Nigel de Jong believes Raheem Sterling deserves better after the winger endured time on the sidelines after a poor run of form. The Englishman fell foul ... Read more »

'Are you kidding me?' - Many Newcastle fans shocked by what 'deluded' star has said

© Provided by This is Futbol Jonjo Shevey Newcastle United fans have been reacting to comments that have emerged from Jonjo Shelvey following their draw in the Premier League. Read ... Read more »
On you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic