Belinda Feek is a NZ Herald reporter

Former victim says rescuing hostages comes down to paying ransom

A New Plymouth rig worker who was kidnapped at gunpoint by Nigerian raiders nine years ago says rescuing the hostages comes down to the ransom being paid.

A New Zealander, three Australians and a South African were abducted in Nigeria's southeast on Wednesday.

The foreign mine workers, who were employed by Perth-based mining firm Macmahon Holdings, were travelling in four vehicles accompanied by security guards and police when they were ambushed near a bridge on the outskirts of the city of Calabar.

In 2007, Bruce Klenner, 56, was among a group of six workers - including fellow Kiwi Brent Goddard - who were woken by gunfire and the doors of their rooms on the barge-mounted rig being blown up during the early hours of July 4.

Mr Klenner's wife, Linda, says news of another Kiwi possibly being taken as a hostage in south Nigeria just brought all of their own grief back and she worries for the families now involved.

Brent Goddard, was held hostage along with Bruce Klenner in Nigeria in 2007. Photo / File
Brent Goddard, was held hostage along with Bruce Klenner in Nigeria in 2007. Photo / File

"This has made it all come boom, straight back at us ... I feel really sorry for those people, they're about to go through hell."

Mrs Klenner says during the hostage period it took a couple of days before she knew that her husband was still alive.

"It was just me and the girls at home, of course, and it just really wore ... we had people ringing from everywhere, the phone was off the hook, it was all over the news ... it was pretty full on ... I'm just remembering now actually and it was just hell, I couldn't sleep for eight days, I couldn't, you just jump every time the phone rings."

Mr Klenner says he feels for the families involved, too.

"You feel for the family back here and I sort of know roughly what he'd be going through as well."

He says the chances of them being freed depended on a lot of circumstances but it was mostly to do with money.

"Hopefully it's good, if they've got good negotiators helping things along but at the end of the day it all boils down to money. Once they cough up with the goods, with the money, they're all good."

Mr Klenner says he and the rest of the hostages were kept in a hut in the middle of the jungle and were fed twice a day, their "slap up meals" consisting of spam and eggs.

"We never got mistreated so hopefully these fullas are on the same sort of wave length and everything is going okay for them."

Mr Klenner says the kidnappers had to look after them to ensure they got paid their ransom - if any hostages died there would be havoc.

"If [death] happens their whole village would get annihilated just about most probably - there's a lot of payback."

Mrs Klenner says it's been a long road to get her husband back on track - even though he was back at work four weeks later.

"The worst part was when Bruce came home. It's taken him so long to get right - we'd go for a walk or to the kids swimming sports and those cap guns would go off and he'd just jump, and we'd have to leave. The post traumatic stress was just massive."

Once Mr Klenner arrived back in New Zealand his employer Lonestar Drilling washed their hands of him, she says, and failed to give him his last month's worth of wages, which just added to the family's strain.

Mr Klenner says the company was contracted by oil giant, Shell, who could have paid the outstanding wages, but they didn't.

"They could have come to the party if they wanted to but obviously they didn't want to."

He continues to work around the world on rigs in countries including Tunisia, Spain, Libya, Indonesia and South America.

"You've got to, you've still got to put food on the table. I think I was home 4 1/2 weeks and I went back to work. You still got mortgages to pay and you still got bills coming in, you got to keep going. It just took a while to adjust."

- NZ Herald

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