Former Norwich policeman returns from Brazilian charity mission

A former police officer who turned his back on the boys in blue to help build homes for poor people overseas has returned from the first leg of his mission in Brazil.

After spending more than quarter of a century as a policeman, Detective Constable Neil Wilson headed out to South America in October for the start of a two-month trip as a mission tourist with the Christian charity Mission Direct to help improve the lives of slum dwellers.

Mr Wilson, 53, who lives north of Norwich, returned in November to spend Christmas with his family before heading out on a new charity quest, to Cambodia, later this month.

But before heading out to the southeast Asian country, where he will help build a sewing centre for women, the father-of-three took time out to reflect on his trip to Brazil.

He said: 'Brazil was very good, however I have to say pretty soon after I arrived I realised it was not the place that I was being called to go.

'But I got on with it and did a lot of good stuff. I managed to build two houses. The most important thing for me was that I met some very inspirational and amazing people and to me that's what it's all about.

'It's about the people you meet in these places – it doesn't really matter what country.'

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Mr Wilson, who is now in a relationship with one of the women mission tourists who was on the trip, has a host of memories to take from the experience – including having his lunch stolen by a raccoon.

He said: 'I foolishly had my lunch in a plastic bag and this raccoon leapt up and ripped open the bag with his claws and made off with my lunch.'

The incident happened at the Iguacu Falls, made up of a total of 275 individual falls in an area more than 3km wide and 80m high, which makes them wider than Victoria and higher than Niagara.

Mr Wilson said: 'That's a beautiful place and I had a fantastic experience down there on a boat trip.'

The trip to Brazil provided Mr Wilson with the chance to think about his immediate future and long-term goals.

The former builder said: 'I know what I've got to do now which are the three basic needs of human beings – provide a belly full of food, clean and fresh water to drink and somewhere safe, warm and comfortable to sleep at night.

'I think I know that's my purpose in life. I have my own vision now of what I think I'm meant to be doing with my life and I guess the next thing is to find out the place I'm meant to do that.'

Mr Wilson leaves for Cambodia on January 13 where he will spend five weeks, helping to construct a centre for enterprising women in the area to sew, before returning to the UK again ahead of his, as yet, unplanned next great adventure.

He said: 'I'm just loving my retirement – best thing I ever did. I'm now in a relationship, a wonderful relationship with a lady who I met on a team in Brazil.

'That was another bonus for me – to find I've got a relationship out of it. She wants to give her life to mission work eventually and we hope and plan to do that together sometime.'

The former bricklayer, who once worked for Carter and helped build Wayland Prison, was born and grew up in Essex but came to Norfolk in 1982, having spent time laying bricks in Germany.

As a police officer he was a 'career detective' spending time with Norfolk and Suffolk's Major Investigation Team (MIT) as well as the South Eastern Regional Crime Squad.

He worked on a number of high profile cases over the years, including a grisly murder investigation which was triggered after the discovery of a dismembered torso in Pentney Lakes near King's Lynn in 2005.

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