Britons robbed in gun terror on African holiday

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The Independent Online

A holiday in west Africa turned into a nightmare for two English couples when they were robbed of their possessions and abducted from their hotel at gunpoint.

Liz Webster, 60, the Mayor of Waltham Abbey in Essex, and her sister, Marie Zabell, 57, feared they were going to be raped and shot and their husbands murdered as the 11 bandits threatened them with AK-47 rifles. They were marched down a track for two miles in a remote part of Senegal before Mrs Webster's husband, Don Spinks, 57, who suffers from a chest complaint, started gasping for breath and collapsed on the ground.

Two of the robbers stood guard over them for about 20 minutes until they took fright and left after threatening to shoot the Britons if they returned and found they had moved.

The terrified holidaymakers decided to take their chances and escape. They spent the night trekking eight miles through the bush and mangrove swamps and walking along a beach looking for help.

Shortly after dawn they made it back to their hotel where they spent the remaining four days of their stay being guarded by Senegalese troops – just in case the raiders decided to return.

Mrs Webster, a Conservative county councillor for Essex, said: "I can genuinely say it was the most frightening thing that has ever happened to me. The whole situation was unreal – like a film. It was bad enough being robbed but as we were being marched through the bush, all four of us were convinced we were going to be shot. We figured there could be no other motive for them taking us away. Some of the robbers were clearly on drugs from the way they were acting."

Before marching them into the bush, the raiders took £2,000 cash from each hotel room which had been kept aside to pay for the holiday.

The raiders also took jewellery, cameras, passports, flight tickets, binoculars and even a can of sweets. They took another £7,000 in cash from the hotel safe.

The incident happened when the holidaymakers were nine days into their two-week break at a secluded hotel run by a French couple at Abene near Senegal's border with The Gambia, which had been visited before by Mrs Zabell and her husband Keith, 62.

The four had just finished dinner and were relaxing in the bar at 9.30pm when six of the gunmen wearing battle fatigues, burst in to the building and demanded cash while their five colleagues looted stores from the nearby village.

Mr Spinks said: "My wife and I both love adventurous holidays which are a little different – but this was all a bit too hair-raising for our liking."

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