British hostage free as ransom paid to pirates

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A British woman kidnapped from a resort island on the Kenyan coast and held captive by Somali pirates spoke of her wish to be reunited with her son following her dramatic release.

Judith Tebbut was freed by her captors yesterday and flown to Nairobi after 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 58-year-old husband David.

Following her release yesterday she revealed she had been unaware of his death for two weeks.

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 which consists of 18 luxury cottages spread along a private beach. They were the only guests at the time of the raid.

In a video broadcast by the BBC, Mrs Tebbut said: “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.”

Her son, Oliver, declined to comment but a friend of Mr Tebbutt said confirmation of her release was “wonderful news”.

The Tebbutts, from Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, had arrived at the safari village after visiting the Masai Mara game reserve. Mr Tebbutt worked for publisher Faber & Faber.

Local MP Richard Harrington from Watford told reporters: “Our thoughts are with Oliver, who must have such feelings today.

“To see his parents go on holiday, and saying he’ll see them in a couple of weeks’ time, in the most routine way that happens to all of us, then to find what happened to his father, and his mother, for so long whereabouts unknown”

While in captivity, Mrs Tebbutt told ITV News the pirates made her “feel as comfortable as possible”.

Speaking to the broadcaster again yesterday, 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.”

She added: “There were some very hard psychological moments... but I got through it. So I’m really relieved.

“I was moved around a bit from house to house. That started when there was some Navy Seals successfully captured two aid workers. I think it was on the news.

“That night I was woken up and was moved around. It was very disorientating. To be woken in the middle of the night and moved and you’d stay there for a little while and then you’d move again.”

Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman said the case had been discussed at 20 meetings of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee during Mrs Tebbutt’s captivity.

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.”

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

Mrs Tebbutt’s mother, Gladys Atkinson, 90, from Ulverston, Cumbria, told reporters: “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.”