Judith Tebbutt relives kidnap from Kenyan beach resort
Recounting the night in detail, the 57-year-old social worker described the moment when she woke to find several gunmen had burst into the grass-woven hut where she and her husband, David, were sleeping.
In a statement via video link at the trial of the only person to be charged over her kidnapping, Mrs Tebbutt told of seeing her husband grappling with the intruders as one of them dragged her from the room.
She was hit in the back with the butt of a rifle and forced to run along the beach, before being bundled into a boat and driven away. Her husband, a 58-year-old publishing executive, was killed in the raid.
Ali Babitu Kololo, 25, a hotel worker and father of two, faces charges of violent robbery and kidnapping at the court in Lamu, Kenya. He has admitted helping lead the gunmen to the room but claims he did so only after the pirates kidnapped him.
Mrs Tebbutt, from Bishop’s Stortford, Herts, said that soon after she and her husband arrived for their two-week stay at the Kiwayu Safari Village in Lamu, she felt nervous about security. They were also the only guests.
“I thought to myself that this was pretty weird,” she said. “I was beginning to get this very strange feeling that something didn’t feel right.” Her husband reassured her by saying it would be “a Robinson Crusoe experience”. On their first night, the couple had walked along the beach to enjoy a fish supper before heading back to the room. “We just got straight into bed and when we slept, we normally started off sleeping holding hands, we always did that,” she said. “The next thing I was aware of was David. I remember him shouting ‘What the —- is going on?’
“He looked as though that he was grappling with something that was taller than him. I couldn’t see anything or anyone. I was then aware of someone prodding me. I looked and saw there were two men there, both had rifles, and I remember thinking ‘I wonder if this is security or something,’ because it was just so unreal.
“I got pulled out of bed. One man was holding the tops of my arms very tightly and pulling me towards the door. I remember shouting ‘What’s happening? What’s happening?’ and I could still see David and the next thing I knew I was out of the door.”
Moments later she lost sight of her husband and was dragged to a waiting boat. The pirates punched her, hit her with their guns and pulled her hair when she stumbled, she said.
“We continued running on the sand and I was thinking that this was good because this would leave footprints,” she said. “I remember being pulled into the water and I could see a boat because the moon was very bright. I remained calm and did not panic. Then I was lifted up and thrown into the boat where I sat.
“We sped off. We just went straight out to sea. I remember saying ‘Where are you taking me? What’s going to happen?’ and this person was rubbing his thumb and fingers saying ‘Money, money, money’.”
As they neared land, the kidnappers ordered Mrs Tebbutt to lie down and covered her with a tarpaulin.
“The next thing I remember was the boat slowing down and I then sat up immediately and was aware that it was dawn,” she said. “We were coming into a mangrove swamp.”
Mrs Tebbutt gave no further details about her time in captivity, nor did she say when she realised her husband was dead. She was released in March after her son, Oliver, reportedly paid a ransom. The case continues.