Entertainment & Arts

Top Gear crew 'chased by thousands and ordered out of country'

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Media captionLizo Mzimba reports on the controversy surrounding the licence plate

Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson has claimed he was thrown out of Argentina by state officials after being pelted with rocks.

He said in a tweet that "thousands" of locals rounded on the Top Gear team in apparent protest at a number plate which appeared to refer to the 1982 Falklands war.

A Porsche used in filming had a registration plate that read H982 FKL.

Clarkson and team had been filming in South America for a Top Gear special.

On his return to the UK Clarkson tweeted: "The number plate WAS a coincidence. When it was pointed out to us, we changed it.

"Thousands chased crew to border. Someone could have been killed."

Image copyright @JeremyClarkson

He added: "This was not a jolly jape that went awry. For once, we did nothing wrong."

Clarkson told the Sun newspaper, for which he writes a regular column: "We knew absolutely nothing about the number plate, it was just an unbelievable coincidence. I swear on my kids' lives.

"When we saw people on Twitter getting upset we took the plate off. But they still attacked us so we made a break for it to our hotel in Ushuaia.

"The mob just descended on the hotel and encircled us. State representatives came and ordered us out of the country."

Image copyright ReSUMEN Policial
Image caption Vehicles carrying Top Gear production crew were also targeted

He added: "I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan but this was the most terrifying thing I've ever been involved in.

"There were hundreds of them. They were hurling rocks and bricks at our cars. They were trying to attack us with pickaxe handles.

"They were shouting. 'Burn their cars, burn them, burn the pirates'. I am convinced the mob was state organised."

In a tweet, he said the programme's crew "abandoned our cars as they thought they might be what was making people angry".

The BBC confirmed the show's decision to leave, but denied the offending car was chosen for its number plate.

Andy Wilman, executive producer for Top Gear, said on Thursday: "Top Gear production purchased three cars for a forthcoming programme; to suggest that this car was either chosen for its number plate, or that an alternative number plate was substituted for the original is completely untrue."

The team departed three days early after being denied permission to film by local authorities.

Clarkson flew into the country last month to film a special which saw him and co-stars Richard Hammond and James May drive the famous Patagonian highway - Route 40 - to the southern city of Ushuaia.

A BBC spokesman said: "We're pleased the team is safe and would like to thank all of those who have helped. As the executive producer has made clear, the number plate issue is a very unfortunate coincidence."

Final warning

It is not the first time the show has met with controversy. In July Ofcom ruled that Top Gear had breached broadcasting rules after Jeremy Clarkson used a racial slur during a programme in Burma.

A 2011 episode caused a diplomatic incident in Mexico.

Image caption James May, Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson are no strangers to controversy

Co-host Richard Hammond said Mexican cars reflected national characteristics - saying they were like a "lazy, feckless, flatulent oaf with a moustache, leaning against a fence asleep, looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat".

In May this year, the BBC faced calls to fire Clarkson after leaked footage showed him mumbling an offensive version of the nursery rhyme Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe in a clip that was not broadcast.

Clarkson revealed he had been given a final warning and would be sacked if he made "one more offensive remark, anywhere, at any time".

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