Thursday, 26th August 2010


Published: 26 August, 2010

WHILE living in Australia he survived both the venomous bite of a redback spider and the deadly sting of a box ­jelly­fish.

But the last thing Don Forrester expected when he returned to England was to be left close to death by a poisonous ­spider in Kentish Town.

After being bitten by a hungry, hairy-legged creature last week, the former Sunday Times journalist has warned residents to beware of a colony of tropical spiders that could be on the loose in Camden.

Mr Forrester, of Grafton Road, was laying decking for a friend in Islip Street last Wednesday when he felt a sudden pain in his hand, which he put down to a wood splinter.

Seconds later he saw two unusual-looking brown hairy spiders with yellow stripes on their backs scurrying across the garden.

But it was only when his hand swelled to five times its normal size that he realised he had become the creatures’ prey.

Mr Forrester said: “Within an hour my hand went from what I thought was a little splinter to looking like a balloon. It continued to get bigger for three days and the pain got so intense I thought I’d better do something about this.”

Mr Forrester sought the advice of a chemist who told him he needed antibiotics, but before the 62-year-old could see a doctor he took a turn for the worse while having a drink with friends in the Sir Robert Peel pub in Malden Road.

“I’d just got my pint when I just started to shake all over, my heart started to race and I started to come over all white,” said Mr Forrester. “The boys took one look at me and said they were going to get an ambulance. Without them I’d probably be dead.” 

He was rushed to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead with dangerously low blood pressure and was later taken into theatre where doctors worked to remove the poison, which had already begun travelling up his arm. Mr Forrester’s condition was so serious he was kept in overnight and given antibiotics intravenously. He is now taking a cocktail of 11 tablets a day and has been advised to have physiotherapy to restore the movement in his arm.

But the ex-Fleet Street reporter is only too aware of how lucky he was to survive his ordeal. 

“I’m a fit man – that’s the reason I was able to fight it off,” he said. “But if it had been an elderly or sick person without that level of resistance they might not have made it.”

Mr Forrester now plans to research the ­spider’s identity so he can warn other people what to look out for.

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