British hostages 'recovering'

By James Morrison,Andrew Johnson
Tuesday 17 December 2013 04:07
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Sidica and Richard Low, the mother and son held hostage in Moscow, were last night found alive and well and waiting to be reunited, British Embassy officials said.

Richard Low, 20, an Oxford University student of Russian, was being treated in hospital although the extent of his injuries remained unclear. His mother had been discharged from a separate Moscow hospital and was in the care of the embassy.

Friends and neighbours of the family, from north London, expressed relief last night as it emerged that they were safe and would soon be home.

An embassy spokesman confirmed that Mrs Low had earlier been reunited with her husband, Peter, who was released by the Chechen rebels on Thursday after falling ill.

After a lengthy search, Richard was located in another ward. His condition was being assessed overnight with a view to reuniting him with his family.

Richard had been staying in Moscow during the third year of a four-year languages degree course at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. Mr Low, a retired advertising executive, and his Romanian-born wife, a physics technician, had taken him out for a night at the theatre while visiting him for a holiday.

News of the family's survival was greeted with undisguised relief by friends in their quiet, tree-lined street in Southgate, north London.

Neighbour Pat Cartwright said: "We have been praying for this situation since we heard. We are very relieved for them. It's a happy end for them, but not for others, so we will keep on praying."

Another neighbour, who declined to be named, said: "You put yourself in their position. They live just across the road, and although we don't know them particularly well, we do chat to them when they are just across the street or in the garden. They're very nice people, and we are extremely relieved."

Mr and Mrs Low's daughter, Louise, 24, was visited throughout the day by friends, but declined to speak to journalists until receiving confirmation from the Foreign Office that her parents and brother were reunited.

One neighbour commented: "She has had her friends staying with her, and people have been taking food in, so we know she's not alone. She must have gone through hell."

Dr Frances Lannon, the principal of Lady Margaret Hall, said: "Staff and students at the college are relieved to have news of the safety of Richard Low, the third-year modern languages student who was among those held hostage in Moscow. We very much hope that he and his family will now make full recovery from their ordeal."

The experience of the theatre siege has prompted a review of security at venues in London's West End. Arnold Crook, chairman and chief executive of the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, and the Strand, announced on Friday that he would be hiring more security guards and imposing bag checks at the door.

Each of the theatres are currently staging hit shows. The Theatre Royal, Haymarket, has David Hare's sellout The Breath of Life, starring Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, while Oscar nominee Brenda Blethyn is at the Strand in a revival of George Bernard Shaw's Mrs Warren's Profession.

Similar procedures have been in place for some time in other European capitals. In Paris, bag checks were introduced at the 19th-century Palais Garnier and the Opera Bastille in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks.

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