Tycoon helps Durham pair raise cash for pal

ARRIVING in Australia without spending a penny on transport, these two students broke a charity record - thanks to Sir Richard Branson.

Dave Binns and Tom Cox
Dave Binns and Tom Cox

ARRIVING in Australia without spending a penny on transport, these two students broke a charity record - thanks to Sir Richard Branson.

Durham University’s Tom Cox and Dave Binns hitchhiked all the way to Sydney after the billionaire tycoon stepped in to help.

The lads had signed up for the annual “jailbreak” challenge, which sees students attempt to travel as far away from Durham Prison as possible without purchasing any form of travel.

Tom and Dave began writing to businesses asking for donations, quietly expecting to end up at least as far as London.

But then an email from Sir Richard’s personal assistant arrived, informing them that the famous entrepreneur had bought them flights Down Under.

And less than two days later the pair were posing for pictures by Sydney Harbour.

They raised more than £2,500 to help friend, Henry Fraser, who was paralysed in a swimming accident – breaking the jailbreak challenge record in the process.

Tom, 19, revealed how their luck came about after he managed to correctly guess Sir Richard’s email address.

The natural sciences student said: “I emailed hundreds of chief executives and didn’t really get any replies, but then an email from Sir Richard’s PA dropped in.

“She said he wanted to know a bit more about why we were doing it, and I was asked to give her a call.

“And then she said ‘Richard wants to send you to Australia’, I couldn’t believe it.” Durham University holds the competition each year, and students typically travel a few hundred miles within the UK to raise cash for worthy causes.

The all-time record destination was San Francisco until Tom and Dave’s epic voyage came to an end last weekend.

Tom continued: “My first thoughts were it must be some kind of hoax. I had only guessed the email address so I had no concrete proof it was definitely Sir Richard behind the reply.

“But it had to be true – who else would be so eccentric?

“I should’ve kept it a secret and surprised people at the end of the challenge but I couldn’t resist it.

“I went running down the corridors shouting at people.”

The lads first boarded a train to Darlington, armed with a letter from the university informing ticket officers of the nature of the challenge.

They changed at York, before arriving in London, where a local travel agent bought them Tube tickets to Heathrow airport.

After a brief stop in Hong Kong, Tom and Dave landed in Sydney with just minutes to spare before the competition’s 36-hour time limit expired.

“I was a bit naughty and sent a text message while we were still in the air, just to prove we had done it,” said Tom.

“When we landed, we went and stayed with a friend of mine in Sydney. We visited the Opera House and then just had a night out. Jet lag was an issue but we only spent about £50 each during the whole trip so we can’t complain.”

The pair spent two days in Sydney, before heading home via a one-day stop in Hong Kong.

I should’ve kept it a secret and surprised people at the end of the challenge but I couldn’t resist it

 

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