Somali pirates free British hostage Judith Tebbutt

 

A British woman kidnapped from a resort island on the Kenyan coast did not know that her husband had been killed for another two weeks.

News of Judith Tebbutt's psychological ordeal came after she was freed following more than six months in captivity, when a ransom was reportedly raised by relatives.

The 56-year-old was snatched from the remote Kiwayu Safari Village, close to the border with Somalia, last September by a gang who killed her husband David, 58.

She said in a video broadcast by the BBC today: "He was a good man. That was very unfortunate, really horrible. But you just need to pick up the pieces and move on.

"I didn't know he'd died until about, I think it was two weeks from my capture. I just assumed he was alive, but then my son told me he'd died. That was difficult.

"And it must have been hard for my son as well, very hard, and he's been fantastic, he's been absolutely fantastic, I don't know how he secured my release, but he did, and I'm really happy, I can't wait to see him, really."

Mrs Tebbutt has arrived in Nairobi and was in a place of safety in the city, the Foreign Office said.

Her son, Oliver, declined to comment today.

Somali pirate Bile Hussein and Mohammed Hussein, an official with the militia Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama, said Mrs Tebbutt was released by pirates holding her today and was expected to be flown to Nairobi.

The Tebbutts, from Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, had arrived at the safari village after visiting the Masai Mara game reserve and were the resort's only guests.

Local MP Richard Harrington, from Watford, told Sky News: "Our thoughts are with Oliver, who must have such feelings today. Under the circumstances, he's done absolutely fantastically."

Mrs Tebbutt told ITV News the pirates made her "feel as comfortable as possible".

Speaking before she was released, she said: "My condition is good as far as I know.

"My health is good. I sleep very well here. I have been ill three times in the seven months.

"On each occasion I have had medication almost immediately and it's cleared up.

"I am really happy that I am being released and I am looking forward to seeing my son and my family and I am going home.

"I feel fine. I have had absolutely no torture whatsoever. In fact I have been made to feel as comfortable as possible by the pirates that are holding me."

Speaking to ITV News again upon her release, she said: "I am very relieved to have been released.

"Seven months is a long time and under the circumstances with my husband passing away... made it harder."

Paul Chandler, who with his wife Rachel spent 388 days in captivity after they were abducted at gunpoint by Somali pirates while sailing their yacht near the Seychelles in October 2009, told BBC News: "I hope she will have an opportunity to pick up the pieces of her life, and deal with the loss she has had."

Rachel Chandler said: "My feeling is one of relief and happiness for Judith Tebbutt and her family, that finally she is free."

Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman said: "We can confirm that she has been released.

"Our priority now is to get her to a place of safety.

"We will have more to say about that shortly. We are standing by to provide consular care as soon as she arrives in Nairobi."

Asked whether the Government was aware of a ransom being paid, the spokesman said: "Our position is that we do not pay ransoms and we do not facilitate concessions to hostage-takers."

Mr Tebbutt was shot when a gang raided the couple's beach cottage in the early-hours attack.

His wife, believed to be deaf and to wear twin hearing aids, is said to have been bundled into a boat which sped away from the isolated island resort.

The gang were at one point thought to be from al Qaida-linked insurgent group al Shabab, which holds much of southern Somalia, though there were also reports that the attack was carried out by pirates.

Mrs Tebbutt's mother Gladys Atkinson, 90, from Ulverston, Cumbria, told the North West Evening Mail: "At the moment I just can't believe it. It's been six months and I just can't wait to see her.

"She was born here. All the neighbours have been so nice."

Mrs Tebbutt's sister Carol McDougall, 51, added: "The last six months have been very worrying for Ollie her son, and losing David who was such a lovely man.

"I did believe this (day) would happen because Jude is very strong, she is a strong person."

In a statement released by the Foreign Office, Mrs Tebbutt said: "I am of course hugely relieved to at last be free, and overjoyed to be reunited with my son Ollie. This, however, is a time when my joy at being safe again is overwhelmed by my immense grief, shared by Ollie and the wider family, following David's passing in September last year. My family and I now need to grieve properly.

"I would like to thank everybody who has supported Ollie throughout this ordeal. I am now looking forward to returning home to family and friends whom I have missed so very much.

"I hope that while I adjust to my freedom and the devastating loss of my husband, that I and my family will be allowed space, time and most of all privacy, to come to terms with the events of the last six months."

Foreign Secretary William Hague, said: "I am delighted that Judith Tebbutt has been released following her six-month ordeal. Judith is now in the care of the British High Commission in Nairobi and has been reunited with her son, Oliver.

"Our immediate thoughts are with Judith's family and friends who have endured the ordeal of her captivity with great strength and dignity.

"David Tebbutt, Judith's husband, was killed during the attack on the couple and I send my deepest condolences to them as they continue to come to terms with his death as a family. I hope the media will respect the family's call for privacy."

PA

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