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people; it was clearly not a ransom-driven,
opportunistic money-making scheme.
The kidnapping made the world news on
television that night, although the names
of the hostages were not yet released.
Gill went to bed in a disbelieving daze
and woke the next morning and went to
work as usual, not knowing exactly what
she could or should be doing. She had
recently started her own business and
was on her fourth day contracting for a
company where she was working in the HR
department. On that morning there was
just Gill and one co-worker who happened
to be African – from Nigeria. She sat and
stared awkwardly at him as the enormity
of what had happened descended on her.
Her co-worker made her a cup of tea and
then suggested she go home.
She was in the taxi on the way home
when the first television news crew
made contact. Before she knew it she
was a household name and was being
interviewed for television, radio and
newspapers. Overnight her man was
missing and she had become a public
When the boat arrived at the camp the
five hostages were taken ashore, blessed
and checked out by a doctor. Since leaving
the oil rig the kidnappers had settled right
down. The hostages would not be harmed,
they said. They were free to move around
the camp but if they tried to escape they
would be shot.
Not much chance of an escape attempt,
Brent thought. They were in the middle
of the African jungle, surrounded by wild
animals and no idea how to get out.
Despite the predicament he found himself
in Brent felt no animosity toward his
captors. The hostages were well treated,
given clothes and their sleeping hut was
equipped with fans.
“They’re people fighting for their rights,
they’re not bad people,” he said.
The media frenzy that was building in New
Zealand was taking its toll on Gill. She
handled the endless stream of interviews
like a seasoned professional but struggled
with the subsequent commentary and
opinion that followed. Ill-informed people
were passing judgment about Brent and
his decision to work in a “dangerous”
location (there had already been 280
kidnappings in Nigeria that year before
Brent was taken) – more hurtfully
suggesting that he did not deserve New
Zealand’s help in securing his release
because of that decision to work abroad.
Others were critical of the way Gill
was handling herself and her daily
appearances in the media. One even
suggested that as his partner for only nine
months Gill had no right to be speaking on
“All this bullshit,” she said. “He’s
kidnapped and his life’s in jeopardy but for
me at home these nasty people.”
She even began to question the
Government’s willingness to help after
seeing a Government minister quoted
as saying New Zealand would not pay a
ransom if it were demanded.
On the flip side she received enormous
support from agencies such as Victim
Support and the police.
“Each of us had our own issues going on,”
Brent said of this surreal situation. “I’m in
“And I’m relying on other people to bring
him home,” Gill chipped in.
If Brent knows who or what secured his
release he certainly won’t let on but
eight days after being taken from the oil
rig came the news that they were going
home. Their departure was heralded by a
machine gun salute as their boat headed
back down the river.
“Gilly, Brent’s free,” were the exact words
Gill heard on the phone, yet she had
to ask for it to be repeated three times
before it actually sank in.
Brent wasn’t totally unscathed from his
ordeal. Ravaged by mosquitoes, he had
contracted malaria but on his release he
was quickly treated.
The couple was reunited, away from the
public glare, in a police room at Auckland
“He embraced me in his arms and lifted
me off my feet but I was already floating,”
His return to New Zealand sparked
another round of media interest and the
couple were recognised for some time
afterwards when they went out in public.
Brent was home for two months but the
urge to get back to work wasn’t far away.
When the opportunity arose to return
to the oil rig he was taken from he was
the only one of the captives to do so.
His workmates were delighted – they
reckoned it was a good omen for the
whole crew because no-one had ever been
kidnapped from the same rig twice.
Gill was naturally concerned but trusted
Brent’s judgement and he phoned every
day to assure her he was safe.
Brent returned to Nigeria another three or
four times before last year going back to
work on the oil rig he commissioned many
years ago in Papua New Guinea.
In August last year the couple took a
holiday in the South Island and ended up
in Te Anau. As they drove into town Brent
looked at Gill and said: “honey, we’re
By the end of their three-day stay they had
made an offer on a house. A week later
Brent was back in Papua New Guinea and
Gill was left to pack up their lives for a
They moved to Fiordland for the lifestyle
and both see the irony in Brent continuing
to work regularly overseas. He has just
returned from a stint in Chad and will go
back there at the end of the month.
“We’ve moved to the safest place in the
world now... and I still send him away,” Gill
laughed. “I must need my head read.”
They both love their new life here. Brent’s
a hunting, fishing, boating kind of bloke
and Fiordland fits the bill perfectly. And he
likes the local attitude.
“People are pretty much straight shooters
in this part of the world – you know where
Gill admits to occasionally missing the
corporate world but likes the lifestyle
balance Te Anau offers and has long-term
plans of operating a homestay business.
They’re well adjusted to the month
on-month off nature of their living
arrangements and expect they’ll keep it
that way for another few years.
The oil rig in Chad
where Brent is
LEFT: Brent’s return
to the oil rig in Nigeria
from where he
was taken hostage
was greeted with
colleagues. He was
seen as a good omen
because no-one has
ever been kidnapped
from the same rig
BELOW: The accommodation block on the
oil rig in Nigeria where Brent and colleagues
were holed up listening to machine gun fire
outside before their eventual capture.
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