Bri­tons seized at sea and held hostage by Iran

Mil­lion­aire nov­el­ist’s yacht is rammed by gun­boats

Daily Mail - - Front Page - By David Wil­liams Chief Re­porter

A MIL­LION­AIRE Bri­tish nov­el­ist and her banker hus­band were held ‘ hostage’ for 13 days by Iran af­ter armed troops at­tacked and boarded their yacht in the Ara­bian Gulf.

For Linda Davies, 42, the drama could have come straight from the pages of one of her thrillers af­ter she, her hus­band Ru­pert Wise and Aus­tralian friend Paul Shul­ton were seized as sus­pected spies and sub­jected to ‘men­tal tor­ture’.

They had been sail­ing near the dis­puted is­land of Abu Musa, which is claimed by both Iran and the United Arab Emi­rates, when their yacht was rammed by gun­boats from the Ira­nian navy.

Yes­ter­day, back in the safety of the cou­ple’s Dubai home, Mr Wise de­scribed the or­deal.

They had set off on Oc­to­ber 28 on the maiden voy­age of the cata­ma­ran they had bought two days ear­lier. All seemed quiet when they ap­proached the is­land, which lo­cal sail­ing ex­perts had in­sisted was safe to visit.

‘ We were look­ing to drop an­chor, and sud­denly two gun­boats came roar­ing out at us, slammed into both sides and we had about ten armed men shout­ing at us and in­form­ing us that we had done some sort of crime,’ he said.

The group were taken to the Ira­nian port of Bandar Ab­bas. ‘ We were ap­pre­hended, tied to the quay and put un­der guard,’ said Mr Wise.

‘We had about five or six in­ter­ro­ga­tion teams – from the navy, from the min­istry of in­for­ma­tion, the ju­di­ciary, the min­istry of for­eign af­fairs, the ju­di­ciary in Tehran, the navy in Tehran…

‘I am not too cer­tain about why they ap­pre­hended us. I think they thought this was some sub­tle form of spy­ing, per­haps.

‘ Then they thought it was some sub­tle probe, per­haps as to the own­er­ship of the is­land. Again, that went away. We were never ac­cused or charged with any­thing for the full pe­riod of our de­ten­tion.’

The cou­ple have three chil­dren, Hugh, seven, Thomas, five and one-year-Lara. Speak­ing to the BBC, Mr Wise con­tin­ued: ‘ We had con­tact with our fam­ily, but were re­peat­edly de­nied ac­cess to the For­eign Of­fice and we were for­bid­den to say where we were.

‘We were kept un­der lock and key, not al­lowed out, armed guards out­side, guards inside, for the full pe­riod of our de­ten­tion. We were hostages.’ Mr Wise said the trio’s worst mo­ment had come when they were fi­nally told by the min­istry of for­eign af­fairs they would be freed last Mon­day – but were snatched back from un­der the noses of Bri­tish diplo­mats.

‘We had the ticket, we were at the air­port, we were in the charge of the Bri­tish Em­bassy and then the ju­di­ciary from Tehran in­ter­vened,’ he said.

‘ They took us off the Bri­tish Em­bassy, over­ruled the min­istry of for­eign af­fairs and put us on a flight to Tehran. We landed and were carted straight into a mini­van with cur­tains round the win­dows.

‘We went out at very, very fast driv­ing speed. About four min­utes out we screamed to a halt, changed ve­hi­cles – pre­sum­ably to throw off the Bri­tish am­bas­sador and team who were wait­ing for us.’ Mr Wise said they were then taken to a Tehran ho­tel. ‘ They treated us fine,’ he said, ‘ but with ab­so­lutely no in­for­ma­tion as to what we were do­ing there.’

Even­tu­ally, diplo­mats se­cured their re­lease.

For­eign Sec­re­tary Jack Straw said: ‘It has been dis­tress­ing for the Wises and for their fam­ily.’

Last night Mrs Davies’s brother Roy, speak­ing from his home in Wales, said: ‘Linda told us she was ter­ri­bly fright­ened.’

Her hus­band said yes­ter­day it was ‘for­tu­nate’ the Ira­ni­ans had not known of his wife’s writ­ing and her sub­ject mat­ter. A for­mer banker in Lon­don and New York, Ox­ford- ed­u­cated Mrs Wise, who writes un­der her maiden name of Davies, has been a nov­el­ist for a decade.

Her books in­clude Nest of Vipers in­volv­ing un­der­cover agents work­ing with the in­tel­ligrammes gence ser­vices, and Wilder­ness of Mir­rors, which ex­am­ines the re­la­tion­ships be­tween the se­cu­rity ser­vices, drug smug­glers and arms deal­ers. Orig­i­nally from Glas­gow, the Wises have a Lon­don home in Hol­land Park.

Their de­ten­tion will place fur­ther pres­sure on the wors­en­ing re­la­tions be­tween Lon­don and Tehran.

Tony Blair re­cently held out the pos­si­bil­ity of mil­i­tary ac­tion against Iran af­ter hard­line pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ah­madine­jad de­clared that Is­rael should be ‘wiped off the map.’

Last year six Royal Marines and two sailors were seized to­gether with their boats by the Ira­ni­ans in the Shatt al Arab water­way. The boats are still be­ing held.

d.wil­liams@dai­ly­mail.co.uk

Linda Davies: The mother-of-three was ter­ri­fied by her or­deal

Ru­pert Wise, who had set off with his wife in their cata­ma­ran

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