Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Freed woman flies back to Britain

Judith Tebbutt was snatched by Somali gunmen from a resort island in Kenya (AP)
Judith Tebbutt was snatched by Somali gunmen from a resort island in Kenya (AP)

A British woman snatched by pirates from an east African island has flown back to Britain after being released from captivity.

Judith Tebbutt had been held hostage for more than six months after she was kidnapped off the Kenyan coast, and has said she was "hugely relieved" to be free.

Mrs Tebbutt arrived at Heathrow's Terminal Three at 6.40pm on a Virgin flight from Nairobi. After landing, Mrs Tebbutt, 57, was taken by uniformed officials to a secure area in Terminal Five. She was driven away in an unmarked police convoy at 7.40pm without speaking to reporters at the airport.

News of Mrs Tebbutt's ordeal came after her release from captivity, when a ransom was reportedly raised by relatives.

Mrs Tebbutt was taken from the remote Kiwayu Safari Village, close to the border with Somalia, last September by a gang who killed her husband David, 58. The Tebbutts, from Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, had arrived at the safari village after visiting the Masai Mara game reserve and were the resort's only guests.

Mrs Tebbutt revealed after her release that she did not know that they had killed her husband for two weeks after she was kidnapped.

She said in a video broadcast by the BBC: "He was a good man. That was very unfortunate, really horrible. But you just need to pick up the pieces and move on. I didn't know he'd died until about, I think it was two weeks from my capture. I just assumed he was alive, but then my son told me he'd died. That was difficult. And it must have been hard for my son as well, very hard, and he's been fantastic, he's been absolutely fantastic, I don't know how he secured my release, but he did, and I'm really happy, I can't wait to see him, really."

Earlier this week Mrs Tebbutt was reunited with her son Oliver at the British High Commission in Nairobi. In a statement at the time, she said: "I am of course hugely relieved to at last be free, and overjoyed to be reunited with my son Ollie. This, however, is a time when my joy at being safe again is overwhelmed by my immense grief, shared by Ollie and the wider family, following David's passing in September last year. My family and I now need to grieve properly."

It was reported Mrs Tebbutt's family paid a ransom of 1.3 million US dollars (£800,000) for her release. The Times said the payment was authorised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) because although the pirates are a criminal gang, they are not recognised as terrorists. A spokesman for the FCO said: "The Foreign Office did not make or facilitate the payment of a ransom."

Farmhand Ali Babitu Kololo, 25, has been charged in connection with the attack. According to the Daily Mail he has appeared in court in Kenya and his case was adjourned until next month.

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