12 Sep 2011

Hunt begins for kidnapped British woman in Kenya

Officials in Kenya are working to free a British tourist who was kidnapped at an exclusive Kenyan beach resort after her husband was murdered.

Hunt to find kidnapped British woman begins in Kenya (Getty)

The couple, named in reports as David Tebbutt, 58 and Judith, 56, were staying at the remote Kiwayu Safari Village, close to the Somalian border, when they were attacked in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Mr Tebbutt, believed to be from Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire, was gunned down and his wife was abducted by the gang, said police commissioner Mathew Iteere.

Speaking at a press conference in Nairobi, he said: “The couple checked in yesterday but the attack occurred at about midnight. The man was killed when he resisted and that is when he was shot dead. His wife was kidnapped and we are carrying out a search and rescue mission.”

Officials said a policeman saw six men taking a woman away in a speedboat.

The Foreign Office has confirmed that two British nationals were attacked overnight at a beach resort north of Lamu, near the Kenya Somalia border.

A spokesman said consular staff were working closely with Kenyan officials to secure the “safe and swift” release of the woman.

“We ask those involved to show compassion and release the individual immediately,” he said. “We have deployed a consular team from our High Commission in Nairobi and are offering all possible support to the family of those involved. Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time.”

Gang from Somalia

Kenyan officials are investigating suspicions that the armed gang who carried out the attack are from Somalia, and used a speedboat to get away from the isolated island resort.

Mr Iteere said: “There is no group that has claimed responsibility and we do not know the motive yet. We do not want to speculate because we don’t have that information.”

It was the couple’s first night at the resort, which consists of 18 luxury cottages across a private beach and currently charges £278 ($445) per adult per night. The Tebbutts were the only couple staying at the resort that night.

Advice for travellers

Following the attack, the Foreign Office repeated advice for travellers to stay at least 30 miles away from the Kenya-Somalia border.

Its website says: “There have been previous attacks by Somali militia into Kenya. Three aid workers were kidnapped in July 2009, and two Western nuns in November 2008.”

In 2008, British missionary Brian Thorp, 77, was murdered during a robbery on the island of Lamu.

Faber & Faber

Mr Tebbutt is thought to have worked for publisher Faber & Faber and was a member of the Book Trade Charity, which offers support and grants to those in the book trade.

Chief executive David Hicks said he met him more than 10 years ago, when he worked at publisher Harvill.

“He was on my board for over 10 years as a director,” Mr Hicks said. “It’s very difficult to believe this sort of thing.”

He added: “He was a lovely chap, he was on the grants committee. He was a very caring person and very concerned about the people that we were supporting financially.”