Stephen McGown makes his first public appearance since his arrival in the country during a media briefing on August 10, 2017 in Pretoria. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Stephen McGown makes his first public appearance since his arrival in the country during a media briefing on August 10, 2017 in Pretoria. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Apart from missing his family‚ Stephen McGown was looking forward to obtaining his freedom after being taken hostage by Islamist militants in Mali in 2011‚ McGown was abducted while seated in a restaurant in Timbuktu. He was in the country as a tourist‚ travelling by motorcycle.

"I was looked after well‚ but I was looking forward to getting freedom‚ being in charge of yourself‚" he said of his more than six years in captivity.

McGown was recently freed by his al-Qaeda-linked captives. He was the last of three hostages to be released after Dutchman Sjaak Rijke was freed in 2015‚ and Swede Johan Gustafsson in June 2017.

McGown said he had been in the dark when he was kept in the desert. He had not heard of his mother’s death until he was released two weeks ago.

"I suspected my mother had passed away. I found out on the Sunday I came back. My mother was an amazing lady. What a role model.

"I didn’t have any information. Not having many books in English‚ not knowing Arabic and French‚ [it was difficult]‚" said McGown.

Describing his detention‚ he spoke of his coping techniques: "Sometimes you sleep a lot‚ sometimes you’re miserable … I tried to escape from reality … sometimes, I exercised.

"I tried to see the best in the situation," McGown said.

He said he resolved to stay positive‚ with the intention of returning to his family "a better man". He was looking forward to working with his father Malcolm in the family business.

With staff writer

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