Met police fly to Kenya in hunt for kidnap wife


Click to follow
The Independent Online

A team from Scotland Yard joined the hunt for kidnapped holidaymaker Judith Tebbutt in Kenya yesterday. They are also taking part in the investigation into her husband's murder.

The British couple were the only guests at the Kiwayu Safari Village when as many as six raiders struck in the early hours of Sunday morning.

David Tebbutt, 58, who was described by friends as a kind, modest and unassuming man, was shot and killed, while his wife was taken hostage. With a major hunt by police and army revealing nothing, there continues to be fears that Mrs Tebbutt, 56, a partially deaf social worker, has been taken over the nearby border by Somali terrorists.

Management at Kneesworth House in Bassingbourn, where she works with patients with psychiatric difficulties, said: "Jude has been with the company for seven years and is a dedicated team member known to many of the patients and staff at the hospital. Our thoughts are with Jude and her family at this time and we are hoping to shortly hear of her safe return."

Yesterday the Metropolitan Police confirmed a team had travelled out to the isolated resort. While the force insisted the team was merely there to support the Kenyan police, one local officer described them as effectively taking over the three-day-old investigation. The plain clothed officers examined the couple's luxury beach-side hut as well as the surrounding area yesterday and interviewed staff.

Kenyan officials confirmed they had arrested a local man. Local media quoted sources claiming he was a former employee of the resort who had travelled to Somalia to join the militants. While criminal gangs operate in the area, the fact the resort is just 30 miles from the Somali border has led to fears Mrs Tebbutt was taken by Islamic militants. Al-Qa'ida linked al-Shabaab insurgents control large parts of southern-central Somalia.

One anti-terrorism officer told Reuters he believed the couple were attacked by gunmen linked to a larger group, which have taken advantage of light security at the Kenya-Somalia maritime border to prey on tourists.

"Preliminary investigations and communications we had between us and experts from Interpol and other agencies indicate the gunmen seem to be acting on orders from a larger group of militia men," said the anti-terrorism source. "We have yet to get any communication from the kidnappers but they are most likely in Somalia," added Kenya's Criminal Investigation director Ndegwa Muhoro.

The Tebbutts' family, including their 25-year-old son Oliver, said they were devastated but had been advised not to comment further. The Metropolitan Police said they were also assisting in repatriating Mr Tebbutt, a publishing executive for Faber & Faber.

Dahir Kadiye, 57, a Somali-born London taxi driver, who helped secure the release last year of British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler from his native land after they were kidnapped by pirates, told the Evening Standard: "We need to negotiate. We could mobilise the local community who will appeal to their hearts. They will say: 'Look, this female is not a camel or a sheep, you have to let her go'."