UK hostage goes back to make film of ordeal

Mark Henderson, kidnapped by guerrillas in Colombia in 2003, has returned after receiving an email from one of his former captors

A British man kidnapped by Colombian rebels and held for three months has returned to the scene of his ordeal to meet his captors in the hope of achieving "closure".

Mark Henderson made international headlines when he was snatched, along with seven others, trekking near Colombia's 2,500-year-old Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) ruins in 2003. Taken by the National Liberation Army (ELN), the hostages were forced to walk for 18 hours a day through thick jungle, surviving on very little food and living in constant fear of death.

But an email received out of the blue from one of his kidnappers, known only as Antonio, 11 months after the event, prompted the 38-year-old to fly back to Colombia to meet his captors and make a film of the journey.

"I think most of my family thought I was mad," said Mr Henderson, who added that he returned to try to understand the reasons behind his kidnapping and to deal with post-traumatic stress. "When I was released I wanted to know everything about what I'd been involved in. I visited the Foreign Office, the police, spoke to the priest who's been involved in my release, but I still only knew about 60 per cent of my story." It has taken him five years to find the time and funding to complete the film, entitled My Kidnapper.

Seven people were kidnapped with Mr Henderson: a fellow Briton, Matthew Scott, who escaped and spent 12 days wandering in the mountains before being found, a German, a Spaniard and four Israelis. But only three agreed to return to Colombia with him.

The film – which is made up of footage shot on a shaky handheld camera, interspersed with news bulletins from the time of the kidnap and moving clips of Mr Henderson's parents' appeals for his release – was screened at the Sheffield Documentary Festival last week and will be broadcast on More4 early next year.

In one striking scene, Mr Henderson and Reini Wiegel, a German female hostage, are shown embracing their captors. ELN, a Marxist guerrilla group, has been operating since the 1960s. Kidnapping was so common in Colombia that in 2007 hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against civil conflict and to demand the release of the estimated 3,000 people being held.

Mr Henderson said that prior to returning to the jungle he sympathised with his captors, who claimed to use the kidnapping to publicise the massacres carried out by right-wing paramilitaries in the area and the persecution of indigenous villagers. But he denied he was suffering from Stockholm syndrome, in which hostages form an unlikely bond with their captors.

He said: "I definitely felt sympathetic to what they were fighting for. They are two people who shared an incredibly important part of my life. I'd held them in high esteem, thought they were people with ideals fighting for the common man."

Mr Henderson, who now works as a film director and lives in London, changed his opinion after he returned to Colombia. "The people in the mountains didn't want them kidnapping people. I was more angry and disillusioned. I don't think Antonio realised how much pain and misery he'd caused us and our families. A long way through filming he finally said sorry. That allowed me to forgive them."

Revisiting the scene of their capture was clearly traumatic for the group. Mr Henderson said: "The first night we were back there I slept in the same bed that I was taken from, and I was frozen with fear. I couldn't sleep all night."

The visit also revealed the tensions that emerged within the hostage group in 2003, from the Israeli man who planned to commit suicide to Ms Wiegel's attempt to kill one of the guards with a hairpin.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The new Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris
architecture

Arts and Entertainment
Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker and Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham
Downton

Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

art
Arts and Entertainment
The kid: (from left) Oona, Geraldine, Charlie and Eugene Chaplin

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised

art
Arts and Entertainment

Review: Series 5, episode 4 Downton Abbey
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

    Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

    The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album