10:58am Wednesday 21st March 2012
© Press Association 2013
A British woman kidnapped from a resort island on the Kenyan coast has said she was "really happy" that she had been freed.
Judith Tebbutt, 56, was released by her captors after a ransom was reportedly raised by her relatives. She told ITV News: "I'm really happy. It's just nice to be around other people, it's been quietly lonely for seven months."
Mrs Tebbutt 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. The couple's son Oliver declined to comment but a friend of Mr Tebbutt said it was "wonderful news".
Somali pirate Bile Hussein and Mohammed Hussein, an official with the militia Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama, said Mrs Tebbutt was released by pirates holding her and was expected to be flown to Nairobi. The Tebbutts, from Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, had arrived at the safari village after visiting the Masai Mara game reserve and were the resort's only guests.
Mr Tebbutt worked for publisher Faber & Faber and was a member of the Book Trade Charity, which offers support and grants to those in the book trade. Chief executive David Hicks, who knew him for 15 years, said: "This sounds wonderful, though I'll only really be happy when it's definite that she's safe."
Local MP Richard Harrington, from Watford, told Sky News: "Our thoughts are with Oliver, who must have such feelings today. Under the circumstances, he's done absolutely fantastically. I think he's conducted himself for one so young so extremely well, and I do nothing other than just commend him."
Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman said: "We can confirm that she has been released. Our priority now is to get her to a place of safety. We will have more to say about that shortly. We are standing by to provide consular care as soon as she arrives in Nairobi."
The 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."
Asked whether officials had advised the family not to pay a ransom, he replied: "All I can say is that we have been in close contact throughout. We have obviously been providing support to the family and been in close contact with the family throughout and have been meeting regularly to discuss the case."
The gang who kidnapped Mrs Tebbutt were at one point thought to be from al Qaida-linked insurgent group al Shabab, which holds much of southern Somalia, though there were also reports that the attack was carried out by pirates.
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