FORMER Tamworth man Warren Rodwell, who was kidnapped from his home on the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines on December 2, 2011, has been released, on the weekend its understood he was to be executed.
The ABC has reported kidnappers planned to execute Mr Rodwell this weekend, but instead, his release was negotiated, to the relief of family and friends. His last proof of life video in January had his captors telling viewers if the ransom wasn’t paid he would “suffer an unusual way of death”.
Fairfax Media reported the Islamic terrorists who held Mr Rodwell planned to behead him to mark the beginning of Holy Week this weekend, because it was the most important time for Catholics in the Philippines.
Mr Rodwell, 54, was released early Saturday in the southern Philippine port city of Pagadian just hours before his planned execution, informed sources believe.
Fairfax Media reported that the Abu Sayyaf terrorists would have considered executing Mr Rodwell during Holy Week as a significant victory for Islamic militants in the staunchly Catholic Philippines.
Mr Rodwell settled in Ipil in the southern Philippines in 2011 after working as a teacher in China before marrying Miraflor Gutang, whom he met on the internet, but it’s been reported he and his wife had recently separated before the kidnapping.
The kidnappers reportedly posed as local police when they kidnapped him.
A Tamworth cousin of Mr Rodwell’s, who only wishes to be identified as Susan, told The Leader yesterday the family was “really happy and relieved”.
Susan said she found out about her cousin’s release when she got up on Saturday morning
and had a call from SBS. Since then she’d had about 15 phone calls from the media and journalists.
She said she’d also heard from family about his release and the latest news she had was that Mr Rodwell was currently recovering in hospital.
“I’m assuming they will return him to Australia, at least I think he will,” she said.
“He’d be crazy not to.
“I am looking forward to getting him back home in Australia and talking to him.”
Susan said she didn’t know if ransom was paid and that was why Mr Rodwell was released, but if it was, it wasn’t from the government.
“The money has been raised by family, so if any money was paid, it was raised from family and friends,” she said.
She was involved in raising funds for his kidnappers’ ransom demand, which stood at $US2 million at one point.
Al Rashid Sakalahul, the vice-governor of the southern island of Basilan who negotiated with the Abu Sayyaf for Mr Rodwell’s release, told Fairfax Media the Islamic terrorists were paid the equivalent of A$93,600 in Philippine pesos to free Mr Rodwell, after demanding the equivalent of almost A$400,000 when he became involved in negotiations several weeks ago.
He said he was revealing how much was paid to douse speculation he benefited from negotiating with the Islamic terrorist group.
“I don’t want to be accused by anyone that I benefited from this negotiation…that’s why I came up with this admission,” Mr Sakalahul said.
“My only mission is to save the life of Rodwell by getting him out of the Abu Sayyaf.”
The Australian government has a policy of not paying ransoms for Australian nationals on the grounds it could encourage further kidnappings.
“The Australian government never pays ransoms – to do so would leave Australians ex- posed in all parts of the world to kidnappers who’d be motivated by a desire to get money and to get it fast from the Australian government,” foreign minister Bob Carr told ABC TV on Saturday.
“But I won’t comment on arrangements that may have been made by Mr Rodwell’s family and Abu Sayyaf, the kidnappers, made through the Philippines anti-kidnapping unit and their police force.”
Mr Rodwell’s sister, Denise, was expected to fly to the Philippines yesterday to see her brother.