'I thought it was a joke until I was tasered with 50,000 volts' - Munster hero on terrifying kidnapping ordeal
Former Munster player Shaun Payne has spoken about his family's horrific kidnapping ordeal earlier this year and thanked the Irish public for their "unbelievable" support.
Payne, who spent nearly a decade with the Irish province as both a player and a manager, was speaking on RTE Radio One's The Ray D'Arcy Show and admits his family are only coming to terms with the ordeal that took place in January in South Africa.
Last week Payne's wife Michelle outlined the terrifying incident on her Facebook page that saw four gunmen follow the rugby legend and order him back to his home to his unsuspecting wife and children.
Michelle was physically assaulted in the house before the gang members fled the scene when the alarm was raised.
Payne recalled the day in question and says he thought that it was some sort of practical joke when he was initially approached.
"My first reaction was complete surprise," he told the radio programme. "I see the guys come up from behind and I honestly thought it was a joke until I was tasererd with about 50,000 volts. Then I realised it wasn't a joke at all.
"Then there were three guns pointed at me and you realise you need to co-operate here and do what you are told, but you go into survivor mode.
"You are thinking of the end outcome the whole time and you remain calm and just try and think how you can get out of the situation."
At the time his children were having a sleepover and he tried to figure out quickly the best course of action to protect his family.
"I just remember thinking 'these guys can't go into the house'.
"Do I try and bluff them? In the end I don't know why I took them back to the house but it turns out it was for the best because we could see from surveillance cameras that I was being followed from my house so they knew exactly where I lived."
Payne told listeners that one of his wife's biggest fears when returning to their native South Africa in 2012 was a kidnapping, but he refuses to carry a gun. However from his military service quickly identified the gang members were carrying 9mm pistols.
"The first thing I looked at was to see were they real. They most certainly were."
"We were thinking let's just give these guys what they want, we're insured, the electronics are insured, whatever else is insured can be returned. You are trying to control the situation and keep it calm."
Once inside the house the couple were separated, with Payne taken to the bedroom and ordered onto the floor with a gun pointed to the back of his head.
"The four things they were asking for were guns, cash, jewellery and the safe. They kept asking, 'where's the safe?'".
Luckily for the South African, the gangsters didn't see the safe concealed safe in the bedroom. It was particularly fortunate as Payne didn't know the combination as it was rented accommodation.
Unbeknown to the former rugby star, his wife was being assaulted elsewhere in the house. The uncertainty surrounding his wife was distressing he said.
"It was a sick feeling in my stomach not knowing. That was the worst part of it."
The five-minute ordeal came to an end after Payne was spotted leaving the house he was in with the four gunmnen and the alarm was raised.
"One second there was four guys in the house running around with guns and next they were all gone. Suspiciously five minutes before security arrived."
"Sometimes lines are monitored and security firms may have inside men on the job. Suspiciously just before security arrived there was some sort of signal and everyone just disappeared."
He was both relieved and shocked to locate his wife in the house.
"She had been roughed up pretty bad. That was a huge shock to me. I obviously hadn't seen any of this at the time and it was pretty upsetting."
While they enlisted counselling services immediately, the couple were told that it was too soon and needed time to absorb the gravity of the situation. Three months after and they are only beginning to process what happened, and more importantly, accept it.
"Michelle is still pretty much in shock."
The couple mulled over the decision to publicise the incident, with Michelle eventually posting their side of the story on her Facebook page last week. Despite his initial reservations, he says it has been a brilliant decision to help the healing process, praising the support from Ireland as "unbelievable".
"For us it has been a massive positive. The amount of emails we have received from our friends in Ireland, people we don't even know in Ireland, Munster supporters, people from Dublin, Leinster, Ulster, all over, it has been unbelievable.
"It has been a real healing process. I'd like to thank everyone personally who emailed us."
The couple remain defiant that the kidnapping will not force them out of their home country.
"It would almost be an admission of defeat. It's not like this happens every day where we are.
"We were just very unlucky the way this incident worked out, or lucky very lucky if you look at it the other way as well that no-one made a mistake or did something stupid."
The 2006 Heineken Cup winner told D'Arcy that while they enjoy their life in South Africa, they do miss the "special times" they enjoyed in Ireland.
"We miss our friends," he said. "Without being too patriotic, we miss our times we had in Munster. We had some really special times there.
"The town we used to live in, Ballina [Co. Tipperary], we miss that terribly as well.
"We went out to visit Axel once there once when we were living in Cork in 2004 and we absolutely fell in love with the place."