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Ulverston woman's terror in Kenya
AN ULVERSTON woman has re-lived her six-month hostage ordeal at the hands of the Somali pirates who murdered her husband.
Judith Tebbutt fought back tears as she told a Kenyan court how she was snatched from a ‘paradise’ holiday island close to the lawless Somalia border.
Mrs Tebbutt, a former Ulverston Victoria High School pupil whose family still live in the town, was released by her kidnappers in March after a six-figure ransom was paid.
She recalled how she and her publishing executive husband David, 58, were attacked just hours after arriving at the secluded Kiwayu Safari Village resort.
They went to bed and she was woken by her husband shouting: ‘What the **** is going on?’, the court heard.
She told how she was dragged from their hut along the beach, hit on the back of the head with a rifle butt and bundled into a boat which sped off to a mangrove swamp in Somalia where she was taken ashore and kept prisoner.
Over a Skype link from the UK, the social worker, 57, spoke for the first time in detail about her kidnap terror during the trial of a man charged over the attack.
Mrs Tebbutt had arrived at the Kiwayu Safari Village beach resort with her husband David, a 58-year-old finance director with the publisher Faber & Faber, after visiting the Masai Mara game reserve last September.
She told the trial of Kenyan national Ali Babitu Kololo, 25 – the only man who has been charged in connection with the attack – she had felt nervous from the start of their stay at the remote beach resort as they were the only guests and their hut, or banda, had no door.
However, her husband of 26 years reassured her, saying it would be a ‘Robinson Crusoe experience’.
After supper, the couple retired.
“We normally started off sleeping holding hands, we always did that,” said Mrs Tebbutt.
“The next thing I was aware of was David . . . shouting ‘What the **** is going on?’ “He looked as though he was grappling with something who was taller than him. I couldn’t see anything or anyone.
“I was then aware of someone prodding me. I saw there were two men.
“Both had rifles, and I remember thinking: ‘I wonder if this is security or something’ because it was just so unreal.
“I remember shouting: ‘What’s happening? What’s happening?’ and I could still see David, and the next thing I knew I was out of the door.”
Mrs Tebbutt, who lives at Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, said she was forced to run along the beach and was hit on the back of the head with a rifle before being bundled into a boat.
She said: “I remained calm and did not panic. Then I was lifted up and thrown into the boat where I sat. We then sped off at speed.
“I remember the moon being on my right hand side and we just went straight out to sea between the headland and an island. I eventually could not see any land at all.”
Mrs Tebbutt told the court there were five men on the boat with her.
She said she got to know some of them during her time in captivity and learned three of them were called Ali, Ibrahim and Abdullah.
She said she gave nicknames in her head for the other two, whom she called Leader Man and Nameless.
“I remember saying: ‘Where are you taking me? What’s going to happen?’, and this person (Nameless) was rubbing his thumb and fingers saying ‘Money, money, money’.
“I thought: ‘Ok, so I’m being kidnapped for money. Well that’s okay, because they will just ask for some money, it will be paid and I will go home’.
“I remember thinking this was not going to be for long, so I just had to stay focused and don’t panic.”
Mrs Tebbutt described how the small speed boat bounced over the waves in the pitch black and said she was given a blanket, black tracksuit trousers and a coat to keep warm.
The gunmen eventually ordered Mrs Tebbutt to lie down and covered her with a tarpaulin.
She told how the boat moored up close to land sometime after dawn.
She said: “I was lying down and we were speeding off somewhere, and I remember actually being quite relieved because my back was in real pain, so this was actually slightly more comfortable.
“The next thing I remember was the boat slowing down and I then sat up immediately and was aware that it was dawn, it was light. We were coming into a mangrove swamp.
“I had no idea where I was or what was going to happen, but I was still very calm.
“I thought the last thing they need and I need to for me to panic and risk getting myself shot.”
She added: “We steered into this mangrove swamp and I was carried out of the boat into the water and it was quite shallow, and I had to then walk on dry land.
“Abdullah gave me his brown leather sandals to wear, because there were a lot of sharp stumps in the shallow water.
“I remember just standing there in this area that was very sandy and very thorny under-foot, and I then watched them all pull the boat under the mangroves, so it was hidden from view.
Mrs Tebbutt was cross-examined via Skype by Kololo, a devout Muslim.
She helped his defence by telling him: “I did not see you among those who abducted me.”
Although not referred to in court, Mrs Tebbutt was released after her family paid a reported £800,000 ransom.
She later revealed that she had only learned of her husband’s death after two weeks as a hostage.
He had been shot in the chest.
The trial was adjourned until July 30.