Elderly North Vancouver couple safe after witnessing Ugandan kidnapping

North Shore News

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The daughter of an elderly North Vancouver couple who were part of a group held up by armed kidnappers in Uganda is breathing a sigh of relief that her parents are safe and out of harm’s way.

Martin and Barbel Jurrius of North Vancouver were part of a group that headed out on a wildlife safari April 2 in Queen Elizabeth National Park, a popular spot for tourists in southwest Uganda. Their group was reportedly targeted by armed kidnappers, who took an American woman and her local guide and held them for ransom.

A North Vancouver couple is safe after witnessing the kidnapping of a American tourist and their local guide in Uganda while on safari. The kidnapped pair were later released. Photo contributed.

Martin and Barbel Jurrius were not kidnapped, but were left “abandoned and unharmed” with the vehicle, according to Ugandan authorities.

The couple was able to alert park authorities and were brought to safety.

Both kidnap victims were released several days later. Ugandan state news agencies said the pair had been rescued by Ugandan “security forces.” But other news reports indicated a ransom had been paid.

Natalie Jurrius said Monday her family is relieved that everyone is safe.

“I’m just glad they’re safe. It’s a blessing how it turned out,” said Natalie Jurrius. “It could have been a lot worse.”

Jurrius said she managed to speak briefly to her step-mom Sunday morning after a weekend of worry. Her parents didn’t want to discuss details of what they’d been through, but reassured family they are safe, said Jurrius.

“She said everyone is fine,” said Jurrius.

Jurrius said family in Canada had been in the dark about what was taking place in Uganda, adding the first she learned of the kidnapping of the American tourist was when she was called by reporters on Friday.

When she phoned Canadian consular officials, she was told they couldn’t give out any information because of privacy concerns. “It could have been handled a little bit better,” she said. “We didn’t know what to believe.”

Jurrius said she wasn’t impressed with that. “I don’t understand why they’re giving me the run around.”

Jurrius said her parents are experienced and independent travellers and have visited many parts of the world, including going on safari in Africa before. Typically, they don’t check back often while they are away and eschew social media, she said.

“We’ve never worried about them until now,” she said, adding if there had been any indication the area was unsafe, her parents would not have travelled there.

Ugandan authorities stressed the kidnapping was an isolated event.

Jurrius added she’s hoping her parents will decide to use their cell phone or at least check in more often in the future.

The couple was heading off to visit relatives in Germany and other parts of Europe before heading home later this month.