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Australian Story -

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Proof Of Life - Transcript

PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT: Monday, 10 May , 2010

NIGEL BRENNAN, PRESENTER: Hello, I'm Nigel Brennan and I'm a photojournalist. Nearly two years ago,
I was kidnapped, tortured and held for ransom in Somalia with a female colleague. Throughout that
time I never doubted that my family would do everything they could to get me home. It wasn't until
I was finally rescued that I realised just what they had done to get me out. I'm incredibly proud
of what they did and this is their story. It was broadcast as a special late last year and is
revisited tonight as a Logies finalist for Australian Story.

(Excerpt of hostage-takers video - September 2008)

NIGEL BRENNAN, HOSTAGE: My name is Nigel Brennan. I'm a photojournalist from Australia and we've
been captured by the Mujahideen who are in opposition to the Ethiopian troops in Somalia. They have
accused us of working with the Ethiopian forces.

(End of excerpt)

KELLIE BRENNAN, SISTER-IN-LAW: When we first heard that he was kidnapped in Somalia I thought, "You
silly, silly, silly, silly boy". I was so angry with him that that had happened.

(Excerpt continues)

AMANDA LINDHOUT, HOSTAGE My name is Amanda Lindhout. I'm a Canadian journalist. We are asking our
governments to please intercede in this and to help us get out of here as quickly as possible.

(End of excerpt)

KELLIE BRENNAN, SISTER-IN-LAW: There's anger, there's frustration, there's desperation. All of
those things. We've all gone through every single stage not like... more than once. It is all
consuming, it consumes your life.

GEOFF BRENNAN, FATHER: Just prior to the beginning of the twelfth month of Nigel and Amanda's
incarceration, Hamilton got a phone call from the hostage takers. Nigel spoke to Ham.

(Excerpt of phone call)

NIGEL BRENNAN: Ham?

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: Yes mate.

NIGEL BRENNAN: You've got to listen to me. I'm in a room with men with men that have guns. I'm very
sick. I've been passing blood for months. They won't give me medicine. They have me locked in a
dark room. I'm chained and I've been totally isolated for the last nine months. And I have no clean
water and very little food. I have no one to talk to and my mental health is slowly slipping. All
my thoughts are very dark at the moment. I don't know how much more I can take. Ham, it's the...
they're saying that you have to pay this money otherwise they're going to kill me.

(End of excerpt)

HEATHER BRENNAN, MOTHER: A friend of ours taught Nige when he was a little boy. And she said
"Heather some of us have children... citizens of the world", and she said Nigel is a citizen of the
world. She said, "You're never going to hold him back". He's travelled since he was 20. He's-he's
been to obscure countries.

KELLIE BRENNAN, SISTER-IN-LAW: He's the youngest of four children so I don't think any of them
would mind if I said he was a little indulged.

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: The second time we went overseas together we trekked and that's sort of
when he really realised he did enjoy taking photos. And then he came back, did his degree in visual
arts in Brisbane.

HEATHER BRENNAN, MOTHER: And I said to him at the time "What exactly do you want to do with this
degree after you're finished?" He said "I want to be a war correspondent. I want to be a war
photographer".

KELLIE BRENNAN, SISTER-IN-LAW: Nigel started work in Bundaberg as the photographer for the
newspaper and then, yeah, he decided to go overseas and do a bit more photo work.

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: Nige met Amanda when he was in Africa last time. He was in Ethiopia
taking photos over there.

KELLIE BRENNAN, SISTER-IN-LAW: We knew Amanda. She's been out to Australia before. And she was a
journalist with Press TV in Iraq.

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: She's been to some crazy parts of the world. She's had agendas to get
things out there and she's accomplished that. Yeah so... um... Yeah I've met Amanda.

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: Nige must have mentioned that he was going to Kenya and Amanda said, "Well
I'm going to be there at the same time as well. Why don't you come over and why don't we head
across to Mogadishu together."

HEATHER BRENNAN, MOTHER: A few people knew that he was going to Somalia and he said to all of them
"Please do not tell mum and dad, they will freak".

GEOFF BRENNAN, FATHER: Somalia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists
or anybody else to enter. The only industry basically I think that occurs in Somalia is piracy and
kidnapping so anybody who's white who enters that country is highly likely to be kidnapped.

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: I think he was probably just a little bit naïve where he thought,
"She'll be right." But yeah not a smart- not his best choice to date anyway.

KELLIE BRENNAN, SISTER-IN-LAW: It was a Sunday morning. It was about 11 o'clock and my home phone
rang. And the lady apologised for calling me on a Sunday morning and she said, "I am a journalist
from the Sydney Morning Herald. Can you confirm the kidnapping of Nigel Brennan in Somalia?" I said
"Are you serious?" She said "Yes, I'm very, I'm very serious". And she said, "He's been kidnapped
with Amanda Lindhout". Sorry (tearful)...And as soon as she'd said that, I knew it was them.
(Cries) And then I rang Heather. And then we got confirmation, confirmation through later on that
Sunday that yes, he had gone to Somalia and that was pretty much, um... That was pretty much it.
Reality sort of started to set in then that yes, this was really actually happening.

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: From what we understand Nigel and Amanda had been in the country for three
days. They arranged a fixer, an interpreter and a driver. So they had three Somalians with them.

ABDIFATAH ELMI, FIXER/CAMERAMAN: Nigel and Amanda they were good persons. When I told them that
this would be dangerous Amanda refused that. Even once we were in the car I said to him this lady
is very brave. And Nigel said like but the brave can be dangerous sometimes.

KELLIE BRENNAN, SISTER-IN-LAW: They were driving in a car and they were pulled up on the side of
the road and they were taken out of the car at gunpoint.

ABDIFATAH ELMI, FIXER/CAMERAMAN: They have opened all the doors of the car and they are running
with their guns to us. And they said to us "Get in, get in your car!" Then we get in our car. They
drive us very fast.

KELLIE BRENNAN, SISTER-IN-LAW: It's like, well OK, where do we start? Where do you start to look
for somebody when you don't know where they are or who's got them.

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: In the early hours of Monday morning the hostage takers called Mum and
Dad's place.

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: A voice came through which was fairly clear but accented. He said "My name is
Aden. I'm ringing from Mogadishu and I have Nigel here with me in Mogadishu". And he said that this
is a ransom call and that there is a ransom for one and a half million dollars per head. About 4
o'clock in the morning we had four police officers arrive. One of the things that we were directed
for first up was to try and obtain a "proof of life" question. So that was to establish that the
hostage-takers did have Nigel and Amanda and that they were alive. I asked them what was the name
of our dog? Two hours later the answer came back. Nigel says he doesn't have a dog now but the name
of his dog when he was a child was Gopher. So that was deemed as a successful proof of life answer.

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: Normally in a kidnapping situation in Somalia, we've been advised,
obviously people go in there for work, the onus would be on your employer to have kidnap insurance
and like any insurance when you get in trouble, things get resolved quickly. The fact that they
were working freelance they had no insurance, so the respective families had to rely on the
Canadian and Australian government to negotiate their release. So the Australian and the Canadian
governments set up a taskforce in Nairobi. The Canadian side, they've very successfully negotiated
a lot of releases around the world. We were told "Look, unlimited resources will be thrown at this.
It will get resolved but the Australian Government does not pay ransoms - never has, never will".

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: On any one day there are a million Australians travelling the world. If a
ransom is paid for one, why wouldn't it be paid for a million? So I can completely understand why
governments won't do it. It was not actually fully explained to us how they would get them out if
there was no ransom paid.

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: The Australian Federal Police moved into Mum and Dad's place pretty much
straight away to monitor any future calls from the hostage takers. Because Nicky took the first
call she was trained up to be the next of kin negotiator.

HEATHER BRENNAN, MOTHER: They gave her lessons on negotiation, they'd take her downstairs and quiz
her for hours and hours and hours.

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: What we learnt was that Nigel and Amanda are a commodity and we are the only
buyers of that commodity so it's absolutely pointless for them to kill Nigel or Amanda. Because
obviously if they do, they're not going to get anything for them.

(Excerpt of phone call with hostage-takers - late 2008)

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: Hello?

HOSTAGE TAKER: Do you hear me?

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: Yes I can hear you.

HOSTAGE TAKER: Your brother is okay, understand?

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: I'm, I'm really worried. I want to speak to him. Please.

HOSTAGE TAKER: Okay, you can speak if Allah allows but not at this time. I am busy at this time,
understand?

(End of excerpt)

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: Two weeks after he was kidnapped the hostage takers let Nick speak with
Nige.

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: Talking to Nigel was pretty extraordinary because he actually sounded okay
which was incredibly heart warming. I think there was lots of... "Christ, how am I going to get
myself out of this?" and "This is not fun for everyone to be going through". When the video came
out we were actually extremely hopeful at that point in time. The feeling was that that was the
beginning of serious negotiations. I think at that point in time we were genuinely thinking six
weeks and we'd probably be looking at him being out.

GEOFF BRENNAN, FATHER: We asked the Australian Government "Can the family pay money in the form of
ransom and whether it was legal and all the rest. We were told we could make a payment. The
Government will call it "costs" because they can't use the word ransom.

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: Two-hundred-and-fifty thousand dollars is a figure that the Government will
facilitate the payment of. Anything over that sits pretty firmly in the ransom basket. So we
started liquidating assets.

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: We raised a fair bit of money and the joint Nairobi task force made
numerous offers to the hostage takers and all were rejected outright. The calls from the hostage
takers became a bit sporadic and by Christmas time they'd petered out. At that time the AFP had
pretty much flagged they were going to take their people back to Canberra and they took Mum and
Dad's phone number with them to be monitored down there on a 24 hour basis. I probably started to
crack the shits, probably January. I mean it started to feel like it was taking a long time. By
that stage I guess we were up to five months in. There were a lot of strategies that were
brainstormed between the Nairobi task force. They seemed to just chop and change. Some of them had
zero merit. The three Somalian journalists were released by the hostage takers so I guess that
probably brought a bit of hope but obviously it didn't come to fruition.

ABDIFATAH ELMI, FIXER/CAMERAMAN: I wish my colleagues would be got their freedom and... I am
begging Allah for every night and every day to give their freedom for my colleagues.

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: At Easter time there was a phone call that came through from Nigel. We didn't
receive that because at that point in time the phone had been moved down to Canberra but because it
was Easter time the phone was not manned.

KELLIE BRENNAN, SISTER-IN-LAW: For it to go to voicemail was absolutely infuriating. We were
just... It made you so angry, that, like... oh! Why wasn't somebody there to pick it up?

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: In May all Nigel's siblings were together doing a catering job at the
Dungog Film Festival when Nicky got a call from the Federal Police asking her to take a proof of
life call from Nigel.

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: A person on the ground in Nairobi believed that he could negotiate a deal
with the hostage takers. So I went down to Canberra and basically bunkered down and waited for the
phone call. It didn't happen that Saturday night so they were hopeful it would happen the Sunday
night and it didn't happen the Sunday night. Pretty much as far as the Federal Police were
concerned, that had fallen over.

KELLIE BRENNAN, SISTER-IN-LAW: It's really difficult because you get your hopes up and... You know,
you think something's going to happen and it's hard when it doesn't. (Cries) Sorry.

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: Everyone was shattered and I don't think it was the family alone either. I
think all the agencies that were involved were... I don't think, I know. All the agencies that were
involved were pretty distressed about it as well.

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: So pretty much once that strategy hit the wall it was apparent that the
Federal Police had run out of options. The joint task force was working on about US$250,000 and the
asking price was $2 million so I think they were never ever near the money and it was never going
to cut a deal.

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: And they effectively said to us "You need more money. It's going to cost more
money. We know that you have more money. We cannot do anything with your money". Two hundred and
fifty thousand dollars was the absolute official capped maximum that the Australian Government
would facilitate on our behalf - even though that was our money and not the Government's money.

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: So that's when the family made a collective decision that really the
only way to get this resolved was to go it alone.

GEOFF BRENNAN, FATHER: If the Government won't support us then we do it alone. This is our last
roll of the dice.

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: It was then that I started making my own contacts direct to people in
Africa and I set up a phone call with Nigel.

HEATHER BRENNAN, MOTHER: That is the first time we have had contact with Nigel in 10 months.

(July 2009 phone call excerpt)

NIGEL BRENNAN: Ham, they're saying you have to pay this money otherwise they're going to kill me. I
know it's a lot. I know you are doing everything you can. (Sobs) I want to come home.

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: Nige, we've sold houses mate, we have. We have sold houses. Rouen Road
has been sold. I've sold Cairns but these guys don't understand. The Government don't give a f---.
They're never going to give us one dollar. And we've sold cars. We've done everything we can but
these guys still think that we can raise a million dollars.

NIGEL BRENNAN: I'm so sorry for the hurt and pain I've caused all of you.

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: Mate don't stress about that. Don't stress about that. We all love you
mate and you know that so just hang tough alright?

(End of excerpt)

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: He was pretty remorseful for the grief he'd caused his family
(tearful)... which is, you know... I sort of told him not to stress about that. You know and I told
him that we obviously all loved him and I guess it was maybe, you know..I don't want to say it but
I wanted him to know that in case he doesn't come back I guess. If he ends up dying in Somalia well
at least he knows that we do all love him and he's aware of that.

(Excerpt of phone call continues)

NIGEL BRENNAN: You have got to try and pay this money as soon as possible. Please, please, please.
(Cries) It's my life, Ham.

(End of excerpt)

HEATHER BRENNAN, MOTHER: Hamilton said "Mum", he said "We have to get him out of there". He said
"He's really not very well at all'. That's when my heart sank because this has been my concern. I'm
just fearful that he will be too sick to come home. He won't get home. He'll die.

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: We felt that we had to go over to Canada and see John and Lorinda, Amanda's
parents. We wanted to seriously discuss with them bringing in a hostage release and ransom
negotiator - that being a third party person who was independent from the government. This fellow
was given to us and upon research of him, you know, fantastic. It worked for us in a lot of ways.
He had successfully released very recently another Canadian citizen.

JOHN CHASE, KIDNAP AND RANSOM CONTRACTOR: I've been doing kidnap and ransom since 1993. The hostage
takers are criminal gangs essentially. They do it for revenue generation. Any sort of political or
religious demand can be won over with extra money.

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: Effectively he put together a business plan for us and he said, "This is what
I give to every single client and this is what we work through and it works".

JOHN CHASE, KIDNAP AND RANSOM CONTRACTOR: It's not rocket science. The timeline is unpredictable
but there will be a demand, there'll be offers, there'll be threats. And then once you've managed
the expectation of the gang properly, so that they believe that they've got every last cent that
they're going to get out of you, you will reach an agreement.

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: So the families are now taking control. He will be assisting the families
negotiate directly with the hostage takers to get- You know, to come to a deal - to make a business
deal. It's a business transaction. Amanda's parents and Kellie and I have a crisis management team
meeting pretty much every day. If there's been any calls the private contractor picks them to
pieces and then we all decide where we're going to go or what we're going to do from there. The
private contractor definitely warned us that these could be unpleasant phone calls. Lorinda got an
incredibly distressing phone call from Amanda. Amanda was fairly close to hysterical on the phone
saying that she was being tortured.

JOHN CHASE, KIDNAP AND RANSOM CONTRACTOR: The important thing is that you can't let any of those
any of those threats alter the strategy that you employ. Because once they realize that by making a
threat it will change the way you do things, it will just encourage them to do it time and time
again.

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: It's been pretty stressful. Like, relationships are really being
stretched. You know, there's a lot of anxiety. Mum and Dad are fruitcakes. Nick's... You know,
she's under a lot of stress. We'll regroup. I'm confident of that but like it's-it's tough now.

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: The cost of hiring a private contractor is phenomenal. It's massive. It can
be up to US$3,000 a day. Obviously the longer that this goes on the more that it actually costs us.
So we are actively fundraising.

On screen text, Sydney October 2009

KELLIE BRENNAN, SISTER-IN-LAW: Where we are at the moment is we have an amount of money that we
believe is going to get them out and pay the ransom amount. The problem that we have is we don't
have enough money to continue the payment for the contractor.

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: Mum and Dad made contact with some prominent Australians and some people
he had heard were generous philanthropists.

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: Dick Smith was one of the few that got back to us so Kellie and I have now
come down to have a chat to him about this. I'm nervous because it's a fairly horrifying thing to
have to do to ask for money.

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER (after visiting with Dick Smith): Dick Smith has offered us full backing, full
support with whatever we require or whatever we need. It's- it is phenomenal. I'm bit overwhelmed I
think, to be completely honest. I didn't expect him to not behave this way but having someone do it
is... is quite spectacular.

ON SCREEN CAPTION: Late last year, Nicky Bonny flew to Kenya to finalise negotiations with the
kidnappers and to hand over the ransom. Nigel Brennan and Amanda Lindhout were released on November
26.

(Excerpt of Press Conference November 26, 2009):

KELLIE BRENNAN, SISTER-IN-LAW: For 462 days our family has hoped that this day would come. This has
been an unbelievably harrowing and wearing ordeal and nothing could have prepared us as a family
for what we have gone through since Nigel's capture.

(End of excerpt)

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: When Nigel comes home, it will be a massive, massive moment for all of us.

HAMILTON BRENNAN, BROTHER: I'm going to give him a cuddle and a kiss and then I'll probably flog
him with a stick or something because I'm cranky at him as well, so, uh... for putting himself in a
dumb situation.

NICKY BONNEY, SISTER: You know it worries me what his state of mind will be. The human spirit does
seem to be very, very enduring. And, you know, the vast majority of people do actually come out of
a situation like this, certainly changed but not- not too emotionally disfigured. So, you know,
that's certainly what I hope for both Nige and Amanda with this.

END CAPTION:

The Brennan family say cost of rescuing Nigel Brennan and Amanda Lindhout "exceeded one million
dollars".

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and the Australian Federal Police have declined to
comment.