Former kidnap victim and Bromley Times Green Man ‘wept’ for hostage couple
PUBLISHED: 14:42 17 November 2010
The dramatic release of hostages Paul and Rachel Chandler has stirred deep memories of the terror experienced by kidnap victim and Times columnist Tom Hart Dyke.
Tom, 34, who spent nine months in captivity in 2000 in Colombia has followed the Kent couple’s plight since they were snatched by Somali pirates in
October last year. Today he writes
exclusively for the Times..
turn to page 4
“I turned on the TV and burst into tears, the most tears I have shed since Colombia I should think. I guess it shows I still have these emotions about it all hidden.
The worst part is the not knowing. My captors played games with me, and from what I have heard Paul and Rachel Chandler have gone through something similar. On one occasion they told me I had a few hours to live - they were going to execute me.
To stop myself losing it I focused on what I would do if I got out and it was then I came up with my idea of the World Garden at Lullingstone. You have to do anything you can to block it out, keep going. After all I was only there looking for rare orchids and to this day I still have no idea why me and my friend were taken.
They would play these games and then laugh at our reactions. Inside you were terrified but you knew you couldn’t show it. The English gentleman act saw me through.
The release of the couple by Somali pirates has stirred memories of my experience, that’s for sure. It’s been 10 years but when I heard the news it felt like two hours ago. Nine months of captivity I endured and since news last October of the Chandler’s capture I have watched their progress closely.
The main difference has been contact with the outside world. No-one knew what had happened to us. We were travelling along the Colombian border and were snatched by this group who thought we were CIA or spies of some kind. To this day I still don’t know who they were. They were constantly at us, shouting threatening with their guns.
Thoughts of home are dangerous. If you allow yourself to dream of family and friends you risk just losing it. You have to try and block it out.
It’s now coming up to 10 years at Christmas since I was released by my captors and returned to the UK with my friend, travelling companion and captor, mountaineer Paul Winder.
When we touched down at Gatwick Terminal 2, that moment I will never forget. It was sheer joy but we were welcomed by an unbelievable media frenzy
The Chandlers will probably be a bit overwhelmed, There was a lot of interest here, and I am not surprised the nation literally came to a standstill on their return. For us the coverage was fine - we were just so grateful for all the support.
When we stepped of the plane at Gatwick I had the impression some people still didn’t know if we were alive or if it would be a body bag.
During our captivity we lived in small palm huts, were constantly moved from place to place to disorientate us and fed on a diet that included armadillo and monkey body parts.
Seeing the Chandlers this week and how they looked brought a lot of it back. You get into a routine at the time and these terrible things become the norm. We probably walked 1000 miles during that time, through jungle and mountains and for much of it we were just exhausted.
“I was lucky, my youth helped me recover from the ordeal. From the start I said to myself ‘right that chapter is closed’ and I would advise the Chandlers to do the same if they can, I sincerely hope they can put this terrible experience behind them.
I learned my lesson and in some ways it actually spurred me on because of it. I hope they are able to come to terms with this and not let it affect the rest of their lives.
On their immediate return I imagine they will undoubtedly fall under the media spotlight for a few months but when things have quietened I would love to meet with them, from one person to another who has experienced such a dreadful ordeal. We will see how things go but I am sure our paths will cross because of our shared experiences.
For now they will want to be with family and friends, the people who love them and can help them adjust and recover from what they have been through.”
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