July 4, 1996 in Nation/World

Wife Of British Hostage Recalls Suddenness Of Capture

Peter Harris Evening Gazette
 

Keith Mangan was waiting for his tea when Al-Faran struck. There was no romance, no emotional goodbye.

“It was broad daylight, we turned around and there they were,” said Julie Mangan, his wife of 13 years.

The Mangans, photography student Paul Wells and his girlfriend Catherine Moseley were taking a breather in their makeshift camp halfway through a grueling week-long trek of the magical Kashmir Valley.

If the party had kept to its schedule and moved on that fateful day, Keith may have been spared his terrible ordeal.

The thought haunts Julie Mangan. Courageously cheerful despite her suffering, only the pounds she has lost, the dark circles under her eyes and the cigarette in her hand testify to the pain of the last year.

Keith Mangan, who is self-employed, and Julie, a shoe fitter, were seasoned travelers into the second leg of a yearlong trip that the 34-year-old couple had spent two years saving for.

They spent three months with friends in Sri Lanka and were excited about the prospect of exploring India.

Julie Mangan remembers posters of the stunning Kashmiri landscape lining the walls in the Indian government offices.

“It sent tingles down your spine. It was as if God had given us a piece of paradise.”

Into this paradise 10 gun-toting guerrillas burst, threatening the four terrified tourists with their rifles.

“They gestured to us to line up. I thought we were going to be shot,” remembers Julie.

But then the rough mountain men had a change of heart, raided the tents and told the guides they were taking the men.

Julie gave Keith her warm overjacket and before she knew it he and Paul were marched off.

The next day, the devastated women packed up and set off on the arduous three-day trek down the mountainside to Palagham, the nearest town.

On their way, they discovered the guerrillas had picked up other Westerners in the scattered camps, including Donald Hutchings of Spokane.

The two women arrived shattered and distraught in Palagham. From there the police escorted them back to Srinagar to report the abduction to the United Nations.

Julie was in such shock she cannot even remember phoning Keith’s parents to tell them the awful news.

But Mavis Mangan will never forget the evening of July 5 when Julie, her voice flat with shock, rang with the bombshell news from Srinagar.

Charlie thought Julie was having them on. Then the awful truth dawned.

In their neat bungalow on a quiet Middlesbrough street, the Mangans do not let on how much they have suffered. Down-to-earth everyday people, they have weathered the storm with remarkable good humor.

They never suggest that Keith might not come home.

“There is a permanent knot in my stomach,” says Mavis Mangan, 59, a mum of three.

“For the first six months we never went over the doorstep. We wanted to be near the phone.”

Even now, the couple go out in shifts in case they miss that vital phone call.

“It’s like the changing of the guards,” said Charlie Mangan.

The whole family broke down when Norwegian Hans Ostro’s beheaded, mutilated corpse was found last August.

Mavis remembers: “Newspapers and TV people phoned all day, asking me ‘How do you feel?’ “I said ‘How do you think I feel?’ and slammed the phone down.”

As the ordeal drags on, the family is caught between resenting the intrusion and fearing Keith’s name will be forgotten.

When things get too much, one thought eases the burden. As Julie says: “Keith wouldn’t want us all to be upset. We will break down when he gets home.”

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