It is sad to hear the news that a British woman has been kidnapped in Kenya. Her husband was killed, before she was taken away over the weekend. There are unconfirmed reports that the couple are David and Judith Tebbutt, but the UK Foreign Office has not released the victims’ names. They were staying at the Kiwayu Safari village in Kenya, located near the border with Somali. It is not yet known whether the motives for the kidnapping are financial or political.
This case reminds us that the threat from kidnapping continues. There is no complete data set to show the number of Britons who are kidnapped each year. The Foreign Office records cases it works on or is aware of, but this is thought to account for a small minority of cases. This is because they do not tend to be involved where the motive is financial – the bulk of kidnaps – because they cannot pay a ransom and the cases are therefore handled privately. These cases also tend to remain out of the spotlight because it is important to downplay the ‘value’ of the hostage in order to secure a swift and safe release.
The absence of a dataset is a real problem – it means we don’t really know the scale of the threat, how it has changed, or where it might develop next. Hostage UK has been looking to bring together data from official sources and private security companies. But until that is possible, we really don’t know as much as we should do about this terrible crime.