The Cookstown pensioner who returned to DR Congo not even a year after she was almost killed there by bandits, spent her first trip back working to free the men falsely accused of her shooting.
Although authorities had jailed two of the men guilty of attacking Maud Kells outside her home in Mulita, a further three innocent men had also been blamed.
One man, Nelson, was so worried about the claims that he fled into the jungle with his two young children and pregnant wife, while two others - Aungela and Onande - were thrown in jail.
In her first interview since returning to Cookstown, Maud said authorities in the country knew these men were innocent, but accused them of the crime to extort money for their freedom - “quite a lot of money” that the selfless missionary paid to secure pardons for all three.
“There were two in prison,” she explained, “and the third person, he never was in prison, but he was in hiding in the forest because they threatened to imprison him.
“His wife was pregnant when it happened and I was really concerned, but she had a live healthy baby when she was in the forest and all went well.”
Nelson, who was Maud’s head carpenter in Mulita, also took his children aged three and five into the jungle.
“One of them was very, very ill and had to go into a hospital,” Maud added. “He nearly died. He had Malaria and very severe anaemia and had to get blood transfusions.”
Asked why authorities would charge people with a crime for which they had the culprits, Maud said: “Just to get money because they knew they worked for me.
“There’s so much bribery and corruption out there,” she went on, “when they see a ‘white skin’ they see money.”
Grateful for all the support she has received both at home and in Congo, the nurse said she would like to express her “sincere thanks to everyone who has supported me in prayer and contributed many much appreciated gifts to/ for the people in DR Congo”.