My Experience: Ten Years on from Being Kidnapped
Hostage International trustee and former hostage, Judith Tebbutt, reflects on the decade following her kidnap.
Ten years ago, on 11 September 2011, I was abducted by Somali pirates whilst on holiday in Kenya with my husband David. We were on the holiday of a lifetime and were looking forward to a week in the sun. Instead at midnight armed men came into our room, murdered my husband and abducted me.
I was held for a week in the forest, then taken by boat up the Kenyan-Somali coast before being driven to the village of Amaara deep in pirate stronghold countryside. I was told that I was being held for ransom. During the first few days of captivity, I clung on to the thought that David – whom I wasn’t aware had been killed at that time – would find the money they wanted, and I would be freed; so it was just a matter of waiting. My mother was turning ninety on 2 October and I was looking forward to celebrating her birthday with all my family. I was convinced that I would be back by then as it was only a couple of weeks away and was sure they wouldn’t keep me that long.
Days turned into weeks and in the second week I was told that my husband, tragically, had been murdered. It was then that I realised that I would not be going home any time soon, I would miss my mum’s birthday but more serious was that when I did return home it would be without David.
I had been taken against my will from everything and everyone that I loved and catapulted into an environment where I recognised nothing and no one.
Those first few days and nights were the worst, but I tried to remain positive despite there being nothing familiar or comforting around me. I would listen to my captors outside my room laughing and conversing. I would sit alone in my dark room – so hot it was as if I was sitting fully clothed in a sauna – and feel lost to the world.
Slowly I began to realise that if I were to survive this hell, I was to take some control of my life and my mental health. I created a structure which I adhered to every day, I created time to exercise my body and my mind. I spent six months in solitary confinement where I endured daily psychological torture and starvation and I have survived what was a truly traumatic, life changing experience through my own resilience, focus and never giving up hope.
However, it was not just me who survived and who was resilient but also my family and friends. Being a hostage didn’t just impact me but also my whole family, all our lives have been changed by the experience. I think that it is important to recognise that families are sometimes forgotten in the trauma of a hostage situation because the focus can be solely on getting the hostage home, which obviously is the main goal, but it should be remembered that families suffer too.
Jude is a Trustee of Hostage International, and is currently walking and cycling to clock up miles for our Beirut & Back – Challenge for All!
IMAGE: Jude pictured on one of her many walks in the UK.