A kidnapping ordeal is not over upon being released, victims say

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The Independent Online

After spending 101 days in captivity in the mountain jungle of the Sierra Nevada, it is likely that Mark Henderson will take time to adjust to life as a free man.

The legacy of a kidnapping ordeal can vary widely from flashbacks and nightmares to a total re-evaluation of priorities and commitments.

For Peter Shaw, a freelance consultant from Cowbridge, South Wales, his experiences had a positive and negative effect on his life.

Mr Shaw, 59, was kidnapped at gunpoint while working for the European Commission in Georgia last year. He spent more than five months chained in ahole in constant fear of being executed, before narrowly avoiding being shot when he was rescued by the military last November.

Mr Shaw, who is writing a book about his experiences, said: "The contrast between being held in captivity and returning to my family was unbelievable.

"For five months I had resigned myself to the fact that I couldn't possibly survive. I thought it was pretty clear that it was inevitable that I would die.

"Everything changed on the evening of 6 November and it was like a renaissance; a new rebirth. It was a chance to start over again and not take anything for granted."

He described the immediate aftermath of his release: "When I was rescued, it was recommended that I have counselling but I was fine apart from some skin infections and losing two and a half stone in weight. But I did have slight trouble at the start. I couldn't sleep in my own bed for the first few weeks because it was too comfortable. I slept on the floor instead. I did have nightmares and I still do. I wake up in a cold sweat but then I remember where I am and I appreciate what I have. The main effect now is that nothing bothers me and I'm much more easy going."

A number of victims of kidnappings have found themselves more in tune with a spiritual side of life as a result of their experiences. Eddie and Mary Rosser, who were kidnapped in the Yemen during a six-month placement with a charity four years ago, attributed their survival to their religion. Mrs Rosser, 69, from Lechlade, Gloucestershire, who spent 17 days in captivity with her husband, 66, said: "We were very fortunate as we are Christians. It was our faith that strengthened us and kept us going during our time there and upon our return."

She added: "It is important to emphasise that our situation was totally different from that of Mark Henderson. We were lucky as we were not treated badly. But I imagine some spiritual support would be most helpful to him at a time like this."

The experiences of Camilla Carr - a British aid worker who was tortured and raped in captivity in Chechnya in 1998, alongside her partner Jon James -failed to dent her determination to campaign for the rights of the Chechen people.

But others, have found it less easy to adjust. Four Cambridge graduates who spent 129 days in captivity in the Irian Jaya region of Indonesian New Guinea seven years ago experienced confusion, rather than euphoria, after being rescued shortly after witnessing the murder of two fellow hostages.

Daniel Start, one of the survivors, tried to come to terms with his ordeal by returning to the area and publishing a vivid account of his experiences.