By SCOTT INGLIS AND AGENCIES



Kidnap victim Dennis Corrin was frequently threatened with death and ate rats during his 141-day ordeal in the South American jungle.



Mr Corrin, one of 10 oil workers kidnapped by heavily armed bandits in Ecuador, lived under the muzzle of a gun, was led on forced marches and told he would be shot if he tried to escape.



He and the other hostages were also sometimes chained up. Besides rats the captives ate the "'odd monkey."

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Graphic details of his time in captivity were revealed yesterday when, surrounded by his family, Mr Corrin and three other hostages - Jason Weber, Arnie Alford and Steve Derry - spoke in Oregon.



The four, employed by Oregon-based Erickson Air Crane, had only hours earlier touched down at Medford Airport after flying on a private jet from Ecuador's capital, Quito. They were released on Friday after their employers paid a reported ransom of $30 million.



Mr Corrin's immediate family - wife Marguerite, children Timm and Maree and grandson Mac, who was born just before Mr Corrin was snatched on October 12 - were waiting for him at the airport.



Mr Corrin, a helicopter pilot from Nelson, and the others said they kept up their spirits by thinking about their families.



Mr Weber said: "We knew we had good families back home. That's what kept us all strong."



The group were kidnapped for ransom in the El Coca region at night by heavily armed bandits.



The kidnappers told them to pack a few clothes, then herded them to a helicopter.



After 45 minutes in the air, they touched down and walked for three days through the jungle before stopping at their first camp. Whenever their 22 captors got nervous that the Army might be nearby, they moved.

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The hostages kept track of the days with a calendar Mr Weber made from a piece of paper and a pen he had in his pack. The bandits gave them a small magnetic chess set to play with.



For exercise, they worked out on a gym devised by Mr Alford from ropes strung in trees. Otherwise, they lay in hammocks and talked while the bandits kept close guard. Though they were never beaten, someone was always pointing a gun at them.



Mr Corrin said: "They said they would shoot us if we tried to escape ... and they told us that if the Army showed up, they would shoot us first."



They were not able to celebrate Christmas, but the bandits managed to find some liquor to celebrate New Year's Eve.



Erickson and the oil company employers of the other men are understood to have secretly negotiated for more than four months to win their freedom.



Two of their group, from France, had managed to escape but another, Missouri man Ron Sanders, was executed in January for non-payment of the ransom.



The surviving seven hostages were finally freed on Friday after the ransom was delivered.



Mr Corrin and his family were last night spending time together at an undisclosed hotel in Oregon.



Mr Corrin's sister, Yvonne Burns of Nelson, spoke with him on the phone yesterday. He had lost weight and was tired, but otherwise well.



"He sounds quite good ... I'm sure he will get back to his old self."



She said the family had had to endure more than four months of hell, desperately waiting for news and being scared to publicly talk in case it annoyed the kidnappers.



"It certainly hasn't been easy ... always not knowing."



She said the ordeal had been particularly hard on their elderly parents, Stephen and Mary Corrin.



Meanwhile, Ecuador's Foreign Minister, Heinz Moeller, has said that he fears the ransom reportedly paid for the group's release will encourage the captors to carry out more kidnappings.