When your loved one is kidnapped

September 25, 2013

Source: Daily Life



Nigel Brennan was held hostage in Somalia and later freed after his family paid a randsom. Photo: TIMBAUERPHOTO.COM

In 2008 my brother Nigel was abducted while working in Somalia alongside Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout. I picked up the phone and spoke to the kidnappers when they rang to deliver the first ransom message and so I fell into the role of next of kin negotiator (the NOK). After establishing who I was, and my relationship with Nigel, they demanded $US 1.5 million for his safe release. The situation still seems surreal.

Over time, and with the assistance of some wonderful local Queensland police negotiators, I was actively trained to take the calls. The AFP moved into my parents’ house and I was taught to negotiate with the kidnappers by responding to a series of ‘what if‘ mock phone calls in anticipation of a real call from the kidnappers.

Initially I was fearful of the calls coming in, lest I say something wrong or hear something horrible happen to Nigel. Dealing with the situation affected my home life and all social engagements. From the kids’ soccer parties or going out to dinner, everything revolved around time zone differences with Somalia.



Footage of Canadian Amanda Lindhout and Australian freelance photographer Nigel Brennan, the two foreign journalists kidnapped near Somalia’s capital. Screened on the Arabic Al Jazeera news service.

As the AFP and the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) increased their negotiations, they decreased my contact with the kidnappers and, in turn, Nigel. The AFP implemented a strategy of deliberately not talking to the kidnappers and we were not allowed to be involved in this decision.

After a while, the authorities took phone duties off me all together. I had no contact at all anymore with either Nigel or the kidnappers. We became desperate to hear Nigel’s voice to get any proof of life. No matter how awful the calls had been, at least we knew he was alive when we were receiving them. ‘Was he alive?’ was the constant unknown that hung over everything I did.

Friends cautioned me over the obsessive behavior that came with trying to get Nigel home. They were justified –Nigel was the last thing I thought about before I fell asleep and the first think I thought of when I woke up.

It had a huge impact on my relationship with my husband as I was effectively working full time on getting Nigel home. My husband had to be parent, home keeper and breadwinner all in one. I really was an absentee parent in my children’s lives at this stage and I’m very fortunate that they love Nigel dearly and could understand why it took my all.

The Australian government has a strict no ransom policy, though if a family has the means, they will negotiate on your behalf – though they refuse to allow you to offer any more than US$250,000.

We had raised half a million dollars to contribute ourselves when the government told us that they could no longer assist us if we were willing to provide that amount as a ransom. This news came 11 long months into Nigel’s ordeal.

Despite the government’s assurances they were doing all they could, other captives in Somalia that had been taken later than Nigel were being released, including Nigel’s Somalia colleagues.

After tracking down a phone number through friends of friends I spoke to one of the released kidnap victims and discovered there was an alternative to government channels – there were international risk management companies that specialised in kidnap and ransom.

My family members launched themselves into trying to find a company that would help us and even though the government actually uses these companies themselves, they were not forthcoming with names. After some long late night international calls we found some one who we thought could pull it off.

My sister-in-law and I flew to Canada to see him and try to get the Canadian family to come on board, as you cannot only get one kidnap victim out at a time – it’s an almost certain death penalty for the one left behind.

During our meeting John (our kidnap and ransom specialist) told us the average length of a kidnapping is three months. By this point, Nigel had been captive for almost four times this length of time. He suspected ours might take a little bit longer as we were in effect starting from scratch and had been affected by considerable government ‘noise’.

The change in direction was profound. Yes, we were paying a ransom, but for the first time there was a feeling of control. I was back to negotiating directly with the kidnappers and not feeling as worried about the calls as I had been initially.

Even when we received a torture phone call, John had helped us to prepare for the worst. He had mapped out a plan as to how the negotiations would work and for the first time since the whole ordeal began, things actually started working to plan.

After four months with John on board, including a trip to Nairobi for final negotiations and one failed recue attempt where we flew the extraction team and money in and back out again, Nigel was finally freed. Skinny, bearded and possibly changed forever – but free.



Nicky Bonney and her brother Nigel Brennan are guests on SBS’s Insight program on SBS ONE which explores what happens when Australians are kidnapped overseas. Host Jenny Brockie hears from those who have been held hostage, as well as families and kidnap and ransom negotiators who discuss the delicate process of hostage negotiation and debate the Australian Government’s ‘no ransom’ policy.

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Parental Abduction – FBI’s Most Wanted For Parental Kidnappings

June 21, 2013

Source: FBI

Parental kidnapping or parental abduction is defined as the concealment, taking, or retention of a child by his parent in violation of the rights of the child’s other parent or another family member. Violated rights may include, for example, custody and visitation rights. Sadly, thousands of children are abducted by a parent and removed from the United States annually. Even more children are kidnapped by a parent within the confines of U.S. borders. Parental kidnapping also happens when a child is abducted from a custodial parent abroad and transported into the United States by the non-custodial parent illegally.

More Than Just a Custody Dispute

Make no mistake – parental kidnapping is illegal. Parental kidnapping is far more than a dispute regarding custody matters between divorcing parents. Such matters are relegated to the civil courts; however, parental kidnapping is a criminal act. In fact, parental kidnapping violates the laws of all U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands, plus U.S. federal laws and international laws. It is dangerous and can be deadly.


Parentally-abducted children live a life on the run as if fugitives. It is not uncommon to see a child receive a new name, nickname, haircut, dyed hair, glasses, or otherwise altered appearance. Children may be coached not to reveal their true names, birth dates, home states and addresses, and other identifying information. They may move often to avoid detection and recovery. School performance and social relationships suffer materially (that is, if the child is permitted to attend school). Even medical treatment may suffer because of requirements for identifying information involved in the registration for care and insurance claims processing.

Traumatic for Children

Parentally-abducted children are traumatized emotionally and psychologically, especially if they are brainwashed by the abducting parent to believe that the other parent no longer loves them or has died. Abducted children are truly innocent victims of their parents’ decisions and actions. Their relationships with other family members, perhaps even siblings and grandparents, are terminated, and their sense of family, belonging, and identity is compromised, if not lost entirely in the process.

What typically starts as a custody dispute balloons into a much larger tragedy with long-term and widespread impacts. Perhaps most tragic are the higher risk factors that abducted children face for severe psychological conditions such as reactive attachment disordergeneralized anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder in both the short and long terms.

Parental abduction may seem a last resort and only remaining alternative to a parent fearful of an abusive situation involving the other parent, an international move instigated by the other parent, or even an unfavorable custody dispute playing out in the courts. Ultimately, working within the family court system to resolve custody matters within the confines of the law is preferable for preserving the well-being of all involved.

Parents Wanted for Parental Kidnappings


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Kidnappings in the Philippines: “Run and we will kill you – Warren Rodwell`s Story

June 17 , 2013

Source: KRmagazine

At 6pm on December 5, 2011, 55-year-old Warren Rodwell, who was building a house on the Zamboanga Peninsula in the Philippines, had downed tools for the day when four gunmen ambushed him

Warren Rodwell on his kidnapping in Philippines

“RUN and we will kill you.”

When Australian adventurer Warren Rodwell heard those words, he knew he was not simply under arrest.


It was 6pm on December 5, 2011. The 55-year-old, who was building a house on the Zamboanga Peninsula in the Philippines, had downed tools for the day when four gunmen ambushed him

“I’d been on the phone and was just on the outside of the house in an enclosed area. Two guys came around one way pointing rifles at me and shot me in the hand. The other two came around from behind and handcuffed me,” he said.

“When he shot me I swore at him, then he said ‘police’ and pulled out a pair of handcuffs. It all happened too quickly.

“We had to walk two or three kilometres through rice fields. They were behind me trying to hit me with the butt of the rifle and kick me to move me. The guy said ‘run and we will kill you’.

“I was in front and by the time we eventually got to a river and into a boat, I realised I was being kidnapped.”

The gunmen wore military uniforms and their M16 rifles were plastered with police insignia.

The former Australian soldier knew to stay calm and do as he was told when they forced him into a stolen community boat. A similar vessel would carry him to freedom 15 months later.


Sydney-born Rodwell lived a nomadic lifestyle. He had trotted the globe twice and seen about 50 countries when he decided to settle in one of the most dangerous parts of the world and marry Miraflor Gutang, 26 years his junior.

“I was looking at early retirement in the Philippines because it was halfway between China, where I’d been teaching for about 10 years, and Australia,” he said.

“I didn’t have a great deal of money but I’d saved some and this was one place that I could buy a bit of cheap land, put a house on it and it’d serve the purpose for my Filipino wife.”

His plan was for the couple to eventually split their time between the three countries, but by late November 2011 it began to unravel.

He separated from Ms Gutang and she moved back in with her parents. He continued working on their house, in what he said was considered a ‘safe area’.

Two weeks later, he was kidnapped.

bullet wounds


Within hours Rodwell realised the rebels who kidnapped him were untrained. After an hour on the boat one of the motors caught on fire and exploded.

“They were kicking the boards that were on fire on to me. Then they were throwing the diesel overboard. As soon as the first guy went overboard so did I. I was in the sea handcuffed. I thought I would drown,” he said.

He was pulled back on to the boat, which his captors then paddled for five hours to an island. It was then apparent they were lost.

“They moored the boat in behind a great big naval ship. The next day the army was there with their military helicopters so we had to hide from them for fear of being shot. Then they took me on an eight-hour boat trip that night. I had to change boats, then the smaller boat hit a rock and it looked like we were going to drown in this raging sea. It was like a movie.”

Filipino police have identified the al-Qaida linked group Abu Sayyaf as being involved in Rodwell’s kidnapping.

For the first three months in the jungle, he thought they were going to kill him.

“I very much so (thought I would die) from having my head cut off. I was going to go crazy thinking about it. I thought the best thing is, just accept it,” he said.

“A couple of times people would cock their weapon and threaten to shoot me and I’d just say ‘Go ahead you f…g idiot … I’m worth 10 million Philippine pesos ($AUD250,000) and you’re worth none so go ahead and shoot’.”

But Rodwell was not the only one who was nervous.

“We got caught at times on the mountains and below us would be civilians coming for water and above us would be the military patrols,” he said.

“The fear was that if the military found our camp, they’d just start shooting. They wouldn’t be looking for me. They’d just shoot anyone they could see.

“Sometimes there were civilians around because they’d come in to do illegal logging or we’d be near a mosque or school. Whenever our presence was found we’d move on. They couldn’t trust anyone because if there was another rebel group they’d try to steal me.”

As his life descended into disaster, Rodwell fought to control his mind by thinking about history, dates and numbers.

“That was the hardest thing of all,” he said. “I had no books or notepads but sometimes the newspaper would be brought in and I’d have my photo taken with it for proof of the date and I’d keep it. I didn’t have any reading glasses but I’d still read the whole newspaper.”

Despite his military experience as a field engineer in the 70s and his acquired survival skills, he never tried to escape.

“I had opportunities but you wouldn’t even call it an escape because there was nowhere I could go,” he said.

“Even if I did get away, the area is all controlled by Abu Sayyaf. That would be like jumping out of the frying pan. It wouldn’t be a smart move at all.”


For the next 15 months Rodwell fought to stay sane amid the constant threat of being shot or beheaded.

He was moved between 30 different locations within the Basilan Islands as his captors tried to evade the military and other militant groups.

Most of the time he was cold and starving. At about 7pm each day, he would climb into his hammock with a roaring stomach.

But he ate as often as his captors. On a good day he was fed boiled rice but at times he went up to six weeks without proper food.

“A treat might have been a can of sardines shared with three or four others,” he said.

“Sometimes it might be one small piece of dried fish. If they added anything to the rice it was one thing only. Sometimes they’d add a shrimp or small prawn but it was pretty meagre.

“At times what I would do to flavour the boiled rice is I would use the conjunctivitis from my eyes because I don’t get much nourishment or taste out of boiled rice. When it goes two or three days of boiled rice only, that’s a lack of oxygen getting to my brain and I start getting headaches and disoriented.

“Some of the messengers that would come in were sympathetic towards me and they would smuggle in bananas and things like that.”

His captors also caught wild birds and cooked tree roots.

There was no sanitary and Rodwell went months without washing.

“I had a wash every three or four months with a bit of water out of a bottle,” he said.

“I did acquire a razor and I’d shave all of the hair off my body for cleanliness. That was a way to keep my body clean. It’s an old military trick. Then I wouldn’t get lice or anything.

“Going to the toilet was a problem with the broken hand. The guy would pour water down my back like you would with a baby.”

He spent about 10 weeks in the mountains and the rest of the time in mangrove swamps.

“At the beginning all I had was a pair of shorts but I acquired and stole some clothes. I’d use whatever I could. One sleeping bag was broken so I tore that and wrapped that around me,” he said.

“When I got transferred in boats they’d sometimes put a blanket around me so I’d steal that. I did end up eventually having a balaclava and then a Filipino army shirt.

“The big problem for most of the time was mosquitos. In the jungle swamps we’d be attacked quite ferociously.”



Rodwell’s captors, who spoke no English, were child-like.

“The reason I was treated badly was because they don’t know how to look after themselves,” he said.

“Most of my captors were pretty good-hearted souls but being Muslims they’re not restricted by the 10 commandments. They just see it as anyone who’s foreign as having a market.

“This whole thing is a cottage industry. They’re all second and third generation. I only met one or two people who were jungle fighters. The rest were civilians, around 19-20 years old.”

During his time in captivity, Rodwell was guarded by about 100 different rebels.

Within weeks of his capture, his kidnappers began to soften and signs of Stockholm syndrome set in.

“I bonded enough with my guards that on December 31 they took the handcuffs off and gave me something to shave with,” he said.

“It was a bit scary. The only mirror I had was the handcuffs to look at and I could see all this grey hair appearing on my face.

“I had so many changes of guard that I’d recognise the behaviours in them. The married guy would be in tears because he’d miss his family. A couple of them went crazy.

“With others we’d listen to the noises in our stomach from hunger.”


When a ransom of $94,600 was paid on February 3 this year the captors kept their hostage.

“The delay was that between the different levels (of the group) some people were trying to do a side deal on their own,” he said.

“Apparently it was at the insistence of the vice governor that they must release me otherwise he wouldn’t help them in the future with any cases.”

Rodwell had been told on a number of occasions throughout the 15-month ordeal that he would soon be released.

“I believed no one. I didn’t build up hope. I became emotionless,” he said.

“I started suffering PTSD during the captivity and I started healing myself by analysing the situations a lot.”

Throughout, his militant captors released a series of “proof of life’’ videos as part of their ransom demands.

When the “proof of life” questions increased in frequency, he knew something was afoot.

“They were sending questions through every month instead of every two or three months. I also knew something was happening because I’d been moved very close to a fishing village,” he said.

“It was just a gut feeling and it was that weekend that I actually got released.”

As the tide went out on March 22 and darkness fell, Rodwell was put on a boat. After about two hours at sea, he was transferred to a smaller fishing boat and taken to shore.

“The fisherman paddled it to shore and told me to get out. I was told to start walking and say ‘please help me, please help me’.”

He was spotted by Pagadian wharf workers in the early hours of the next morning and taken to the local police station. It was now March 23 – his dead mother’s birthday.

He was then transported to the US military base at Zamboanga for treatment before being flown Manila to recuperate.

During this time he decided against a reunion with his Filipino wife.

“I wasn’t ready to talk to anyone because I know that when she does talk to me, sometimes it ends up being a heated debate trying to understand and communicate,” he said.

“When I’m dealing with the police and we’re doing interviews about the ordeal, I haven’t really got time for someone (breaking down on me). That’d be like being attacked by a wild animal in the dark.

“I also delayed speaking to my children and siblings for a few days because I wasn’t ready.”

Rodwell said he did not believe his estranged wife was involved in his abduction.

“These Filipinos just love to talk. It’s quite possible that with Miraflor, being a bit loose-lipped, that might have helped with the information being disseminated about me being a foreigner and where I was living. It’s just a lack of prudence but these things happen.”


It has been 18 months since Rodwell was shot and his hand still hasn’t been operated on.

“I’m waiting to go on a waiting list,” he said. “I’ve already been rejected from one waiting list at the Royal Brisbane Hospital because it’s too long and I’m waiting to hear back from QEII hospital.”

He has been diagnosed with PTSD, has damaged nerve tracts in his lower legs and feet and chipped teeth from trying to open coconuts.

But amazingly, he says he is recovering well.

“I’m seeing a private psychologist. Everything is good. I don’t have nightmares. I’ve pulled up pretty well,” he said.

“At the moment I’m still alive and all things considered I’m quite functional.

“I don’t need to see the psychologist for another three months.”

Read about ABP World Group`s CAC – Conduct After Capture Course 

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Rallies across France for four Frenchmen held hostage for 1000 days in Niger

June 16 , 2013

Source: krmagazine

The families of four Frenchmen who were taken hostage in the North African republic of Niger in 2010, are planning rallies across France next week. Today, Thursday, June 13, marks the 1000th day of their loved ones being held captive by insurgents linked to al-Qaida in North Africa

Rallies across France for four Frenchmen held hostage for 1000 days in Niger

The families of four Frenchmen who were taken hostage in the North African republic of Niger in 2010, are planning rallies across France next week. Today, Thursday, June 13, marks the 1000th day of their loved ones being held captive by insurgents linked to al-Qaida in North Africa.


The four French hostages were variously employed by French companies Areva, Vinci and Sogea Satom when they were taken hostage on Sept. 16, 2010, in the town of Arlit, north Niger, by a group claiming to be part of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), reports 20 Minutes. Areva employee Daniel Larribe and his wife Françoise were among seven people originally kidnapped by AQIM along with five employees of Satom, a subsidiary of the Vinci construction group. Although Françoise Larribe and two of the Satom employees were released in February 2011, Daniel Larribe and three Satom workers, Pierre Legrand, Thierry Dol and Marc Ferret have remained in captivity.

Now, the families of the four remaining Niger hostages plan to hold rallies across France in the cities of Nantes, Nimes, Aix-en-Provence, Orleans and Valence, as well as the French capital, Paris, on June 22, as a reminder of the plight of the four whose whereabouts and safety remain unknown. In a statement released Wednesday, representatives of the four families said, “A thousand days in the wilderness, away from everything and everyone. A thousand days: two and a half years, almost three. A thousand days is intolerable. They need to come back now.”

Understandably, all the families are concerned at what they see as the intolerable delay in any move to have the hostages released. During almost three years of uncertainty, the families have received only bits and pieces of information about their loved ones. When asked recently about the hostages, a spokesman for Quai d’Orsay — the French Foreign Office — had declined to comment “for security reasons and out of respect for the families,” 20 Minutes reported.

A video of the four French nationals held hostage was released by AQIM in September 2012 although it was impossible to verify when the video was filmed, (see accompanying Euronews video). The video showed the hostages in apparent good health. AQIM blamed the French government for delaying negotiations which might lead to the hostages’ release.

For the French government, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius met with hostages’ families in January 2013, telling them that “their loved ones were alive and healthy,” even though they were being held in “very difficult” conditions, reports World Nuclear News. Foreign Minister Fabius said at the time, “As frustrating as it may be, the treatment of cases of kidnapping in fact requires the utmost discretion, in the interests of efficiency and in the interest of the hostages.”

The minister confirmed to hostages’ relatives that those held captive were being properly fed and had access to medical treatment. He also said letters written to the hostages by their families had been delivered to them, adding, “Like all of us, I share the anxiety and impatience of the families in these difficult times.” Fabius concluded that the French president, government and businesses were “determined to secure the release of the hostages and their return to France as quickly as possible.”


But for the hostages’ families, another six months have slipped by since Fabius’ encouraging statement and there is concern at the apparent inaction on the part of the French government. In mid-April this year, French President Françoise Hollande had put down the lack of progress to lack of response on the part of the kidnappers saying, “We have wanted (contact) for weeks, if not months.”

Despite matters being compounded by the French intervention in Mali, there was some comfort for relatives of hostages this week. Philippe Hugon, director of research at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS), in charge of Africa told 20 Minutes, “The various intermediate networks between the kidnappers and the negotiators are moving, they are recovering.”

Referring to the release of a French family, taken hostage in Cameroon in February and released, relatively quickly, in April, Mr. Hugon said, “The situation of the French family taken captive in Cameroon was less complex. In this [Arlit, Niger] case, the release of the hostages is more difficult because the war in Mali, where France is at the forefront, is not finished and because these hostages represent financial and strategic issues important to jihadist groups.”

Encouraging words perhaps, but as 20 Minutes reports, the families of the hostages are tiring of what they see as the “lack of explanations” from the French authorities. As René Robert, grandfather of hostage Pierre Legrand put it, “Since the French military intervention in Mali, [the hostage situation] has become a total unknown. There’s been no explanation as to why matters are taking so long. We expect deeds as well as words. We just want our guys back.”

Few in France will disagree with that sentiment.

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