Britons seized at sea and held hostage by Iran
Millionaire novelist’s yacht is rammed by gunboats
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.