Walk in the shoes of a pirate survivor
month of captivity, when their son Ollie, who was co-ordinating ransom negotiations, told her on the phone that David had been murdered, shot dead as she was dragged away. Judith realised that her fate now depended on their 25-year-old son.
In one of the most moving moments, she describes how, sitting alone in the small, hot, filthy shed that was her prison, she experienced the blackest despair. For the first time she abandoned hope – but then “felt the gentle pressure of a clasp on my hand, and in my head I heard David’s voice, true as life, as clear as my dreams: ‘You’re going to do this. I know you will. You’re much stronger than me.’” She said: “I had felt a presence, strongly, undeniably” which told her “not to give up, no way, but fight on”.
There can be no doubt that Tebbutt’s experience of working with people with severe psychiatric problems (even to the point of being under threat of violence) gave her the mental powers to survive her terrible ordeal. Each day (until she became too weak) she paced her cell, counting the steps, imagining that she was walking home. This small, slight woman, whose life had been blighted by heart problems and deafness, discovered a physical toughness that seems miraculous.
Despite her inner rage, she still made the effort to address her captors as human beings, identifying those who were more sympathetic, and gradually learning key Somali phrases to communicate. Half-starved, eaten alive by insects, unwashed, huddling on a wooden bed in punishing heat, Judith knew she had to be “regimented, resolved and cold” in order to survive.
There were moments of kindness.
She was given an exercise book and later a radio on which she could pick up the BBC World Service. A Somali woman called Amina, who cooked for the pirates, gave her a change of clothes, once brought her samoosas, and offered a bottle of Sprite on Judith’s birthday.
At first she thought someone would feel sufficient guilt to help her escape, but then Judith realised that the whole community saw kidnapping and piracy as their meal ticket.
A real fear was that she would be snatched by a rival pirate group, intent on that ransom.
On March 21 last year the end of Judith’s physical suffering came, although she will bear the mental scars for the rest of her life.
The account of her rescue reads like the film script this astonishing story should surely become.
Ever resolute and mature, Ollie had co-ordinated her release with a private security firm, but all details about the sum involved and how the rescue was arranged must, she says, remain secret.
Nevertheless, Judith’s account of the aftermath of her rescue, her horror at seeing her emaciated reflection, her reunion with her son and the agonising return home alone to David’s clothes and possessions – all is vivid and detailed enough to place you firmly in the shoes of this extraordinary woman.
In search of some sort of closure, she has made herself relive her ordeal – and permanent agony of grief for her husband – to write a book which is a passionate affirmation of life. – Daily Mail