Kidnapped surgeon says he was close to death from scurvy

Australian surgeon Dr Ken Elliott endured seven years in captivity after being taken from his home in West Africa.
Dr Ken Elliot. Photo: Friends of Burkina Faso Medical Clinic by Global Business Solutions Inc (YouTube).

An Australian surgeon has revealed he thought he would die of scurvy during a seven-year kidnapping ordeal in West Africa.

“I’d only seen one case of [scurvy] in my medical career, and that was me,” said Dr Ken Elliott, a Perth doctor who worked for decades as a surgeon in the West African nation of Burkina Faso.

“Eventually, my captors found some vitamin C for me, which turned the tide right around because I thought I was finished.”

Dr Elliott, 88, was speaking publicly — for what appeared to be the first time following seven years in captivity — at UK Christian meeting the Keswick Convention, according to a report in The Guardian.

He and his wife, Jocelyn, had set up a medical centre in 1972 in the northern town of Djibo in Burkina Faso, spending most of their working lives in the region.

But aged in their 80s, they were kidnapped from their home by an al-Qaeda-linked militant group in 2016.

Jocelyn Elliott was released three weeks later, but Dr Elliott wasn’t freed until May this year.

He described many physical challenges, including being so unwell he could not walk, and using meditation and memorised scripture readings to help him endure the captivity.

“These were a great help because I was able to meditate on these and pray for myself and for my captors,” Dr Elliott told the convention.

At the time of his release, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator Penny Wong acknowledged the “strength and resilience Dr Elliott and members of his family have shown through the most difficult of circumstances”.

The family said in a statement Dr Elliott needed “time and privacy to rest and rebuild strength”.

More information: The Guardian; 3 Aug 2023.