“I love you and tell the children I love them” — These were Pierre Korkie’s last words as he held his wife Yolande for the last time while in captivity in Yemen.
“At least I got to say goodbye. They [the couple’s two children] never got to say goodbye. I had eight months with him in captivity,” Yolande told reporters in Johannesburg on Tuesday shortly after his remains arrived in the country.
“It was very emotional for all of us.”
Yolande said she had visualised a different homecoming.
“I visualised something different, him holding me in his arms, hearing his soft voice,” she said.
“This morning, there was intense emotions of longing… We will never have him physically again… but in our hearts he will never die.
“But we have intense relief that he has come back to us.”
Her husband and American photographer Luke Somers were killed during an attempt by US special forces to free them from their Al-Qaeda captors in Yemen in the early hours of Saturday.
Korkie and Yolande were kidnapped by Al-Qaeda in Taiz, Yemen, last May. Yolande was released on January 10 and returned to South Africa on January 13. The Gift of the Givers helped negotiate her release.
The kidnappers demanded a US3 million (about R32.5m) ransom in exchange for Korkie’s safe return. At the time of the kidnapping, Korkie was a teacher in Yemen, while his wife did relief work in hospitals.
The Gift of the Givers, which helped in negotiating with Al-Qaeda, said Korkie died a day before he was due to be released following a negotiated deal.
Tribal families in Yemen had been paid US200,000 (about R2.2m) in compensation for the deaths of their relatives, killed during a US drone attack, while trying to help free Korkie. SAPA