British Special Forces will join the hunt for Judith Tebbutt, who is abducted in Kenya, amid fears she has been taken by a group linked to Al Qaeda.
An air, sea and land search yesterday failed to turn up any trace of Judith Tebbutt, 56, who was kidnapped by pirates after watching them execute her husband David with a single gunshot to his chest.
UK Special Forces involved in tracking down Al Qaeda-linked groups and Somali pirates operating in the Indian Ocean are now said to be “gathering intelligence” on possible kidnappers.
The Special Forces could be supported by UK troops currently on routine training operations in Kenya.
It appears that Judith Tebbutt had still been in her night clothes when the pirates escaped with her by motor boat minutes after finding the couple in the beach cottage of Kiwayu Safari Village.
There are fears that Judith Tebbutt, who is a social worker helping people with drug and alcohol problems, will struggle to communicate with her kidnappers because she relies on battery-operated hearing aids.
According to a friend of the couple, Judith Tebbutt is deaf, having around 30-40% hearing, and wears double hearing aid.
Monday night a local man was reportedly being held by police in Lamu, 30 miles from the murder scene, in connection with the kidnapping.
It is presumed that the pirates group is linked to the Al Qaeda aligned al-Shabaab group which is waging an insurgency against Somalia’s fragile, Western-backed government and that Judith Tebbutt is already across the border of the lawless country.
Staff at the Kiwayu Safari Hotel told yesterday how they found David Tebbutt lying in a pool of blood minutes after a gunshot shattered the calm night.
The British tourists were the only guests at the 18-bungalow resort, where a host of celebrities including Sir Mick Jagger and artist Tracey Emin have stayed.
Head of security Hussein Girimo, 51, said: “We heard a gunshot, but there was no scream.
“We raised the alarm and rushed out with a police officer accompanying us. We first thought the sound was coming from our boss’s house. We knocked on the door and told him what happened. He joined us to go to check on the couple.
“When we called, there was no reply and then we stumbled on a body lying on the floor with blood on his head and chest. I’m not sure exactly where they had shot him. We sealed off the room.”
Another guard said: “We saw the footprints of the attackers and followed to the beaches. Then we went back to the beach hut and saw our guest lying on the floor on his belly, and only dressed in pyjama bottoms with green and red dots. He seems to have wrestled with the attackers and that could be the reason why they killed him.”
Although Kiwayu Safari Village has 21 security staff, it was unclear whether any of them were guarding the beach when the attackers struck.
Yesterday the bungalow, where David and Judith Tebbutt were staying, was cordoned off with yellow crime-scene tape as armed police patrolled the three-mile arc of white sand outside their door.
Regional police commander Aggrey Adoli, who is leading the search, said:
“We are using all the tactics and resources available but we have not had any success so far – we hope to find her safe.”
Piracy in Somalia in a multi-million pound industry but all previous hostages – including British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler – have been taken during raids on ships and yachts in the Indian Ocean.
Police were last night trying to check whether the gang had been tipped off about the British couple after their arrival by private plane at the resort’s grass airstrip.
David Tebbutt, who was described as an “Africa hand” after many visits there, is said to have worked in Zambia in the 1970s.
Judith and David Tebbutt were married for 26 years and they have a 25 year-old son, Oliver.