RARELY are we allowed a glimpse into the secret world of the hostage negotiator.Suzanne Williams,who for years has helped resolve kidnap and terrorism cases, stays resolutely behind the scenes, but she was thrust into the spotlight when she was voted Personality of the Year at the 2010 conference of the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA). WISTA is a highly respected component of the maritime scene, having grown to embrace affiliates in 30 countries.
Even at the WISTA conference in Athens, London-based Williams was keeping in anxious contact with developments in her latest assign- ment – to free an abducted non-governmental association official. WISTA specifically recognised the achievements of Williams in dealing with maritime piracy, but she noted how markedly that type of crime differs from land-based kidnap.
Quite separately, a few days later, a seemingly botched rescue opera- tion by US forces led to the death of hostage Linda Norgrove, an aid worker, in Afghanistan. Could that life have been saved by undercover negotiation? Although violence is becoming more commonplace, a hos- tage is temporarily a commodity. Specialist underwriters and brokers know negotiators can resolve peacefully all but the most brutal cases.
Williams and her fellow experts deploy finely tuned strategies to keep captors talking rather than killing, and usually manage to get criminals to surrender their hostages. Insurance carriers all use such experienced outside consultants as part of their kidnap and ransom package team.