Kenya kidnapping: speculation that attack was an 'inside job'
Published 13/09/2011 | 13:07
Speculation is growing that the British woman abducted by an armed gang who murdered her husband in a remote Kenyan resort might have been targeted by local workers who knew they were coming.
The couple were attacked on their first day at the £560-a-night beach hut at Kiwayu Safari Village in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Theories have been put forward, without clear evidence, that the kidnappers were notified in advance of the couple's arrival.
David Tebbutt, 58, and his wife Judith, 56, are understood to have been the only guests at the resort.
If their arrival was seen by fishermen who worked up the coast to Somalia, the theorists claim, it is possible that the information was passed to pirate gangs in the lawless country.
There were uncorroborated reports from Kenya yesterday that several fishermen had been questioned by police.
There are growing fears that Mrs Tebbutt, 56, has been taken across the border into Somalia.
The Daily Telegraph disclosed that her terrible ordeal might be made even more difficult because she is deaf and will struggle to communicate with her kidnappers after the batteries in the devices wear out.
British special forces teams are said to be engaged in the hunt for the kidnappers and a potential rescue of Mrs Tebbutt.
Experts from the Special Air Service were said to be advising the Kenyan police and military as they undertake a large-scale operation.
The Sun newspaper reported that troops from the Special Boat Service were on the ground and pursuing the captors.
Mr and Mrs Tebbutt were attacked by six gunmen who broke into the couple’s beach hut in the middle of the night.
Mr Tebbutt, a finance manager for the publisher Faber and Faber, died from a single gunshot to the head as he tried to protect his wife from the kidnappers.
The initial sea, land and air search failed to find any sign of the kidnappers who are believed to have escaped from the resort in a speed boat.
A Kenyan security source, familiar with kidnap situations in the region said: “It’s going to be difficult to admit that once she’s in Somalia, the whole thing becomes a very different ball game.”
It is feared she may have been snatched by an opportunistic Somali gang who may try to sell her to al-Shabaab, Islamists who control large parts of the territory near the Kenyan border.
It has emerged that the British Government considered using forces training on the other side of Kenya for a possible release assault, but those plans will not be implemented if it is confirmed Mrs Tebbutt is being held in Somalia.
British forces are also available in Uganda and the Royal Navy frigate HMS Somerset is currently on counter-piracy patrol in the Arabian Sea.
Kidnap experts said the family might have to wait several days before hearing from the captors.
Ben Lopez, who works for Compass Risk Management which specialises in the prevention and mitigation of incidents of kidnap, maritime piracy and extortion, said it was now a "waiting game".
He said: "In general if it's a kidnap-for-ransom then frankly the authorities' hands are tied because no government wants to be seen as negotiating and/or doing business with kidnappers because if it ever got out then no British national would be safe again.
"The police tend to have a similar approach. And here, the problem is it seems likely that the kidnappers are in Somalia where there are no authorities."
Instead of being an opportunistic attack, he said "it seems more likely that somebody on the inside alerted them to the fact that some people were there and the coast was clear to come get them".
"In general kidnappers tend to avoid violence, it's not in their interest to be causing a commotion or hurting anybody because it's in their interest to keep the hostage safe - live hostages are more valuable than dead ones.
"If this is a kidnap-for-ransom, they might wait some days for things to cool down and to put additional pressure on the family."
Friends of the couple, who are from Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, paid tribute to Mr Tebbutt but said they feared his wife would struggle to cope with the devastating ordeal.
A close friend of the couple – who have a 25-year-old son, Oliver – said Mrs Tebbutt, who is a social worker helping people with drug and alcohol problems, relied on a hearing aid.
The friend, who asked not to be named said: “Judy only has around 30 or 40 per cent hearing and wears a double hearing aid.
“If she has them in and they are working then she is fine, but if she does not have them or once the batteries run out then she will have great difficulty hearing what people are saying to her.
“It is heartbreaking to think of her in this awful situation. Helpless and having seen her husband murdered.”
Mr Tebbutt, who worked as a finance director for publisher Faber & Faber and was a member of the Book Trade Charity, was described by friends and colleagues as “caring and dedicated” professional.
Ian Stevenson, professor of publishing at University College London, said: “He was one of the nicest people in publishing. I've known him for 15 years and he has had a very distinguished career.”
The couple, who were keen travellers and had visited Kenya before, had spent a week on safari in the Masai Mara before flying to Kiwayu on Saturday to relax by the beach for the last days of their trip.
The Kenyan authorities are trying to establish who had carried out the attack on the resort, which is popular with celebrities including artist Tracey Emin and singer Mick Jagger.
Kiwayu Safari Village, a two-hour speedboat ride through a mangrove delta north of the popular tourist destination of Lamu island, was closed today.
Its managers had flown to Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, with Mr Tebbutt’s body, which is now in the care of the authorities who are liaising with the British High Commission.