A British woman has told of her hell at the hands of Somali pirates who shot dead her husband, dressed her in a burqa and held her to ransom for six months.
Judith Tebbutt’s life was turned upside down when a gang of gun-toting pirates from Somalia crashed in on a dream holiday with her husband David, in a remote resort in Kenya, in 2011.
The diminutive former social worker, 58, was hauled out of bed in a night-time raid and taken by boat to the failed state, which borders Kenya on the horn of Africa.
There she was kept in filthy conditions in a string of boltholes teeming with ants and other bugs. The Hertfordshire resident was reduced to urinating wherever she could, while bandits extorted a ransom from her family in Britain.
She said she suffered a mental collapse and had to struggle to keep her sanity in the face of daily uncertainity.
“In my head I saw them shoving me against a wall, pushing me blindfolded in to the dirt,” she said. “I heard a rifle cocked and fired at me, point blank – the end of everything. I hugged my knees as the darkness came down.”
How much her family had to raise to secure her freedom is secret, but the going rate for a westerner is reportedly $1.3m (¬£900,000).
It was during negotiations to free her that she received the bombshell news that her husband David – a finance director at publisher Faber and Faber – had been shot dead during the kidnap.
Her 25-year-old son Ollie broke the news by phone when she was surrounded by the kidnappers.
She said: “In my head, in my heart, it was as if a clock had stopped. No, Ollie simply couldn’t mean what he seemed to be meaning.
“I looked around the room and I jabbed a finger from one face to the next. ‘You, you and you – all of you, you killed my husband. My husband is dead because of all of you.'”
Months later, the leader of the pirates attempted to say sorry, Tebbutt said.
Entering the squalid room in which he was holding her, he “cupped both my hands between his big plate-like palms and shook them gently. As he did so, he bowed his head.”
Tebbutt’s tale is told in full in her new book, A Long Walk Home.