The moment when Kenyan pilots’ attempt to rescued kidnapped British woman failed
Posted by Administrator on March 25, 2012
This is the moment a brave attempt to save British hostage Judith Tebbutt from the clutches of her Somali kidnappers failed.
Mrs Tebbutt, 56, was being transferred between boats by the pirates who had snatched her from a luxury Kenyan beach resort and murdered her husband.
Kenyan pilots who had responded to an SOS call spent hours tracking the small boat through the Indian Ocean.
They tried to scare her captors into dropping her into the sea as she was switched to the bigger vessel.
The pilots hoped to immediately drop a line to pluck her to safety. But the six-member gang fired AK-47 rifles at the planes, forcing them to abandon the rescue attempt. The pirates then sped off towards Somalia.
It was the beginning of a six-month ordeal for Mrs Tebbutt, which ended only last week when she was released after her family raised a reported ransom of £800,000.
In a further revelation, it has been claimed that her husband David was shot dead in bed with a single bullet to the chest and had no chance to fight off their attackers.
It was previously thought he had been killed during a desperate struggle with the kidnappers in the couple’s thatched beach cottage.
But medical teams who arrived at the scene shortly afterwards have said that Mr Tebbutt, 58, appeared to have been awoken by the commotion and managed only to sit up in bed before the single bullet was fired through a mosquito net. The shot killed him instantly.
His murder gives an insight into the cold brutality of the gang and suggests they had always intended to abduct a single British female rather than a couple, as in the case of Paul and Rachel Chandler.
Mr Tebbutt, finance director of publishers Faber & Faber, and his wife, from Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, were enjoying a holiday on the Kenyan coast last September.
They were the only guests at Kiwayu Safari Village – a secluded hideaway close to the Somali border – when armed men burst into their cottage.
Within seconds, they had shot Mr Tebbutt, bundled his wife into a black tarpaulin and on to a speedboat. A rescue team based at Phoenix Aviation in Nairobi – which also helped to recover the Chandlers after their yacht was hijacked – picked up the boat’s location and attempted to foil the kidnapping.
One of the pilots said: ‘Two planes scrambled to the coast as fast as we could.
‘We spent several hours scouring the Indian Ocean before we finally spotted a small speedboat.
‘It was a huge relief to see it and we dropped to 500ft, about as low as we could fly.
‘We could clearly see a bundle wrapped in tarpaulin on the floor of the boat, and four men armed with AKs. It had to be Mrs Tebbutt.
‘We really felt we might be able to rescue her. There was as much adrenaline in the plane as determination, and we had a second team behind us feeling the same.
‘We saw a larger boat and the speedboat headed straight for it. The moment when they transferred Mrs Tebbutt from one boat to the other we thought there might be a chance.
‘We were intimidating them, continually circling overhead, hoping they might panic and that she might be dropped or fall into the water where we could immediately get a line down to her.
‘All our aircraft have emergency medical equipment, so we know we could have saved her.
‘But we also know from experience that these men have no regard for human life, their own or that of others. They are emotionally dead. We hoped that might work in our favour, that they would push Mrs Tebbutt overboard to drown, and speed off.
‘Instead they fired further shots towards us and as they took off towards Somalia, we were mindful our fuel was getting low, and that we could not cross into that airspace.
‘We watched them go, knowing this poor lady had a terrible ordeal ahead of her. It was heart-breaking.’ Mrs Tebbutt, who was held at the pirates’ base near the town of Adado in the north-west of Somalia, has told how, in the first weeks of her captivity, she believed there was a chance her husband may have survived.
But a medical team had pronounced him dead at the scene. One of them said: ‘One clean shot through his chest had killed him. It was clear he never had a chance to confront his killers, or to save himself or his wife.’ Mrs Tebbutt was freed last Wednesday and reunited with her son Oliver, 25, before being told of her husband’s death and flying back to Britain on Friday.
The grieving social worker will be asked by Kenyan police to return to testify against the only suspect so far charged over the attack, hotel worker Ali Babitu Kololo, 25. He has admitted leading armed raiders to the Tebbutts’ beach cottage.
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