Nigel Brennan's kidnapping joke
DARRYN Smith chuckled as he read the email from his best mate, Nigel Brennan.
Nigel, a photographer working for Journalists Without Borders, had just arrived in Mogadishu, Somalia, and jokingly relayed to Darren the locals were “into kidnapping white people”.
They were fateful words.
The day after the email was sent, on August 23, 2008, Nigel, from Bundaberg, and his companion, Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout, were kidnapped by Somali terrorists demanding $US1million ransom for their return.
Yesterday, Nigel and Amanda were freed after 15 months in captivity.
After being escorted by pro-government militia, they left the country late yesterday afternoon in a chartered plane and flew to neighbouring Kenya
Darryn, a Daily photographer, heard the news about 7am and said he was overcome by emotion when he realised his “brother from another mother” was finally coming home.
“I’ve missed him so much and it’s been a total nightmare not knowing where he was or what was happening to him,” Darryn said.
“At the same time, I’m still very worried about him, especially his psychological and physical health.”
Darryn and Nigel met about two years ago when both were working for the Bundaberg News-Mail newspaper.
The pair hit it off immediately, were roommates and quickly developed a close bond.
Darryn said Nigel was a tender-hearted person who had travelled to Somalia to highlight the everyday struggles of the country’s people.
He knew the risks involved, having previously travelled to Ethiopia on a similar mission.
“I was at work the day Nigel was kidnapped and a story came over the wire. It took me a while to realise it was real,” Darryn said.
“I’ve been in close contact with his parents who have never given up the fight to get Nigel home.
“All I want to do is sit down and have a beer with Nigel like old times and talk about life.
“I’ll be there to support him every step of the way in his recovery.”
Speaking to Reuters news agency from a Mogadishu hotel room, Nigel said he was kept isolated and was tortured during his time as a captive.
“Locked in a room, very little light. I haven’t been able to exercise at all. You know, simple things like being told not to smile, not to laugh – not that there was much to laugh about,” Nigel said.
“But my friend Amanda had a pretty rough time, I know that. She was severely beaten and we were both tortured both mentally and physically.”
“Being pistol-whipped is sort of torture, being completely stripped of everything and then locked in a room, no one to speak to, is a form of torture really.”
It was reported the families of Nigel and Amanda paid the ransom, something both the Australian and Canadian governments refused to consider.
Nigel’s sister-in-law Kellie Brennan said the family was overjoyed at his release.
“For 462 days, our families had hoped that this day would come” Ms Brennan said.
“It has been an unbelievably harrowing and wearing ordeal and nothing could have prepared us for what we have gone through since Nigel’s capture.”