Gary Teeley was at his company house in Nasiriyah when the masked men burst in and shoved a gun in his face. "It was at that moment that he thought he was going to die," said Sylvia Law, a family friend.
Yesterday as he prepared to return to the UK, an obviously exhausted Mr Teeley, 37, explained that he had endured mental torture at the hands of his kidnappers and thanked those who had ended his six-day "nightmare" as a hostage.
"Obviously I can't wait to get home," he said. "I'm in good health. Obviously I'm not too sure who I have to thank. I'm sure there's many people."
A consultant for Qatar International Trading, Mr Teeley had been in the Iraqi southern city for just three weeks when he was taken hostage last Monday. "He knew the risks but he felt it was his duty," said his mother Patricia Teeley yesterday. "I don't think, like any of us, he expected the things that suddenly happened this week."
So far the father-of-five has spoken little to his family of his ordeal, choosing instead to reassure his 60-year-old mother, who said that he "sounded very well but shaken".
Ms Law said: "All we know is that he was held on his own and he is as well as can be expected. His mother was more concerned as to whether they fed him and he said, 'sort of'. She asked if they hurt him and he said, 'I am good. I am a grown man, mum'."
Mr Teeley was released after a battle between his kidnappers and local militia on Sunday before being handed over to Italian troops, according to a spokesman for the Italian forces. He said that moves to free the British worker began at 3.30am when forces raided the military headquarters of Muqtada Sadr, the radical Shia cleric. "After two other kinds of operations and investigations we put some pressure on these armed groups and also through negotiations we arrived at the release of Mr Gary Teeley," the spokesman added.
Mr Teeley was initially taken to an Italian field hospital but his firm said yesterday they were expecting him to travel to Basra before heading to Kuwait.
Speaking from Nasiriyah, his colleague Ali Jabbir said Mr Teeley was now at the US air base and would be travelling either to the UK or Doha in a week or so. "He is very good, very happy. He is a lucky man," he added.
A senior military source confirmed he was in the hands of allied forces, adding: "We'll be making sure that he is flown out of the country and back to Britain as soon as possible."
Mr Teeley, who had designed and set up a laundry system for the US air base near Nasiriyah last year, returned less than a month ago to take over from a colleague. "I came back here purely and simply to relieve my best friend from his duties so he could go and see his new-born son," he said.
It is a business Mr Teeley has worked in since leaving school at the age of 16 and taking a job with a laundry firm near his mother's home in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire.
Originally from south-east London, with four children from a previous relationship, Mr Teeley moved to Qatar three years ago where he lived with his wife and eight-month-old son.
"She is obviously relieved. She had been going out of her mind," said his mother. "He said he was good but he just wants to come home. It has been quite stressful for him."