Posted by: Chuck | July 8, 2013

Freed hostage Warren Rodwell kidnapped after love took him to Philippines

Published on Mar 30, 2013

AFTER a decade wandering the world, Warren Rodwell could never have imagined that it would be love that brought him unstuck.

The former ADF soldier and self-professed “world nomad” had travelled through Mongolia, Uruguay, Thailand, Czech Republic, Cambodia, Chile and Argentina.
He had spent years teaching English in China, Japan and Korea.

A personal website and Twitter account kept his limited followers updated on his adventures, which ranged from teaching at Yunnan University of Finance and Economics and working at the Inner Mongolia Medical College.

Not shy of spruiking himself, he listed “world travel, business, English, diverse cultures, public speaking, writing, computers” among his many specialties.
But it was in the Philippines where he appeared to have finally settled down.

Like many 50-something Australian men, Mr Rodwell looked online and abroad for love, a search that led him to petite Filipina Miraflor Gutang, 25 years his junior.

After a whirlwind romance, Mr Rodwell packed up his things and travelled to Mindanao, one of the most dangerous places in the world for westerners.

DFAT has a consistent red warning on the region, warning of a “very high threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping, violent crime and violent clashes between armed groups”.
Mr Rodwell, who has an ex-wife and grown children in Australia, ignored the advice and decided to marry his young bride in June, 2011.

Whether he appreciated it or not he was immediately a beacon for kidnappers. A white face in a sea of local fishermen.

Only six months into the marriage, Mr Rodwell was relaxing at his new home near the seaside town of Ipil when he was ambushed by armed terrorists dressed as police officers and taken hostage.

He was now locked in the fight of his life, the price on his head – $US2 million.

Even though the circumstances were desperate, nothing in the Philippines happens swiftly. There is negotiation, and then there is some more negotiation followed by further negotiation.

The Australian embassy and DFAT immediately slapped a black-ban on the case, refusing to update media on even the smallest of developments.

However, it had been determined that unless a ransom was paid it was unlikely that Mr Rodwell would survive or be released.

An extraction exercise by the military or police had been ruled out.

During his ordeal, Mr Rodwell’s captors moved him from island to island to elude pursuit. He was not shackled or caged but was always closely watched by the gunmen.
And he grew thinner every day.

Nine days before Christmas a tired and gaunt Mr Rodwell appeared in a grainy You Tube video clip, sandwiched between the piano-playing cats and homemade music videos, telling the world that after a year in captivity he held no hopes of rescue.

“I personally hold no hope at all for being released,” he said. “I do not trust Abu Sayyaf. I do not trust the Australian Government. I just don’t trust anyone.”Personally, I don’t care.”

Like hundreds of post-2001 kidnap victims before him, his face was streamed online to an audience of millions. The intention of groups like Abu Sayyaf is to milk victims for everything they’ve got. Threaten more pain if it drives up the value of their living leverage.

A 15-month battle to stay alive under constant threat of beheading and firing squad had left the 54-year-old near breaking point although family members said his childhood in the NSW country town of Tamworth and subsequent time in the army meant he would not crack easily.

“He had a tough upbringing and his military training would have equipped him with determination and resilience,” his cousin Susan told local journalists.

“We are all hopeful that those qualities will in some way wear down his captors.”

It was about four weeks ago, things suddenly began to move quickly.

Mr Rodwell’s wife, who had initially declared she could not pay any ransom, and her cousin were chosen to negotiate with the abductors. The majority of cash would be stumped by Mr Rodwell’s Australian-based family including his sister Denise and brother Wayne. But the abductors didn’t need to know that.

Mild-mannered local politician Vice Governor Al-Rasheed Sakkalahul – who helped broker the heavily marked down ransom price of $94,000 – said the cash transaction was kept as simple as possible.

“It was in a bag. A bag was filled with cash and dropped off to them. As simple as that,” Mr Sakkalahul said. Last weekend, in the early hours of the morning, Mr Rodwell was placed in a small boat and told to paddle to shore.

He was dehydrated, emaciated and weak, but continued on into the darkness.

When Pagadian wharf workers initially spotted Mr Rodwell, they thought he was a lost tourist. The exhausted expat managed to mutter back: “I’m not a tourist, I am a kidnap victim. Please help me.”



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