By Nina Lakhani
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Kenyan armed forces were drafted in yesterday to help search for a British woman who was kidnapped from an exclusive beach resort after her husband was shot dead in the attack.
The victims have been named as David Tebbutt, 58 and his wife Judith, 56, from Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire, who were holidaying at the remote Kiwayu Safari Village near the Somalian border.
Last night it was reported that a man had been arrested by police investigating the murder. The man, thought to be in his early 40s, is suspected of being in communication with an accomplice from Somalia, and lives near the resort where the murder took place. Kenyan military and police have employed helicopter gunships, a spotter plane and speedboats to hunt for the surviving British tourist amid fears that she had been taken into Somali territory by Islamist militants. UK special forces were also reportedly helping with the search for Mrs Tebbutt.
The couple were attacked just after midnight on Saturday night, only hours after they arrived back after visiting the Masai Mara reserve.
The beach resort is only 30 miles from the southern Somalian border, which is controlled by the al-Qa’ida-linked al-Shabaab group. Militants are waging an insurgency against the country, which is led by a Western-backed government.
“We are using all the tactics and resources available but we have not made any success so far,” said Aggrey Adoli, regional police commander who is leading the search.
Investigators said that they suspect that the abduction was carried out by al-Shabaab, and that search efforts were being concentrated on the Somalia border.
Mr Tebbutt, finance director of the publishing house Faber and Faber, was killed by a single shot to the chest as he tried to fight off the armed gang, police said yesterday.
Friends and colleagues last night paid tribute to the executive and said it was “completely within character” that he died trying to protect his wife. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack; nor have there been any reports of a ransom demand.
Desmond Clarke, former chief executive of Faber and Faber, worked with Mr Tebbutt for 10 years at Thomson Reuters where the murdered man was divisional finance director for legal and academic publishing.
“It is very typical of David to try to save his wife by taking on the kidnappers. He was a delightful man to work with who combined professional seriousness with enormous personal charm.”
Mr Clarke said Mrs Tebbutt, a former nurse, was “a very strong woman” but expressed concern about the welfare of the couple’s only son who is aged 24 or 25.
The Tebbutts, who had been married for 26 years, were the only guests at the resort when an unknown number of raiders struck after arriving by boat, according to Steve Ikau, the Lamu district commissioner.
Police believe the attackers sped off in the direction of Somalia by boat as sniffer dogs led investigators only as far as a beach on a nearby bay. If so, they could have been back in Somalia waters by daybreak making the search much harder for authorities.
The isolated resort is popular with celebrities keen to escape paparazzi attention. Sir Mick Jagger and Tracey Emin have stayed at Kiwayu. The Indian Ocean destination was apparently considered by Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge as a honeymoon destination.
Mr Tebbutt, a keen marathon runner and member of the Book Trade Charity, which offers support and grants to those in the book trade, is said to have developed a passion for the continent while working as an accountant for a mining company in the 1970s.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which would confirm yesterday only that consular officials had been sent from the High Commission in Nairobi to assist Kenyan authorities with the search, urges against “all but essential travel to within 30km [18 miles] of Kenya’s border with Somalia”.
It also warns against piracy, referring to the kidnapping of retired couple Paul and Rachel Chandler, from Tunbridge Wells in Kent, who spent 388 days in captivity until they were released in November after a ransom of around £620,000 was apparently paid.