Families make sure British hostages are not forgotten

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Five months ago, the two names were briefly in the headlines. Since then, however, Camilla Carr and Jon James - two British aid workers kidnapped in Chechnya in July - have been almost invisible. Now, the couple's families are determined to change that.

Yesterday, they launched a campaign to put the two back into the public eye - just as Jill Morrell and friends did for John McCarthy and other hostages in Beirut. Sharing a platform with the families yesterday were Mr McCarthy and Terry Waite, together with Michael Penrose, an aid worker who was held in Chechnya last year.

Camilla's sister, Alexandra Little, says that a phone conversation with Mr McCarthy reminded the families how little the couple's ordeal was known. "He hadn't seen anything in the newspapers or the TV. And that made us realise: people out there don't know. We just want everybody to know."

When the British hostages were held in Beirut, the Foreign Office discouraged all publicity. Jill Morrell's decision to start a high-profile campaign was partly in desperation because of a sense that the hostages had been abandoned. Now, relatives insist that the Foreign Office is making active efforts on the hostages' behalf.Foreign Office minister Baroness Symons attended yesterday's service and read out a message of support from Tony Blair.

But the families are determined that the hostages should be publicly remembered, too. Ms Little said yesterday: "It's Christmas. They should be home. And there should be awareness of their plight."

The couple worked for the Centre for Peacemaking and Community Development, a Quaker group working with children in Grozny. They were kidnapped from their house in the city by six armed masked men. The family have received word that they are still alive, but know no more than that. It is still unclear whether the motive was mercenary or political; there has been one unconfirmed ransom demand.

Camilla's brother, Raj Carr, said: "Are they ill? Are they tied up? Are they handcuffed to a radiator? The duration and the bad conditions - that's the grinding thing."

Support for Camilla and Jon Fund, c/o Lloyds Bank, 47 Milsom St, Bath