Family devastated after John Ridsdel killed by captors in Philippines

Family of John Ridsdel say they are devastated by his death at the hands of kidnappers in the Philippines. They say his life was "cut tragically short by this senseless act of violence despite us doing everything within our power to bring him home."

Abu Sayyaf militants had issued deadline for ransoms on former Calgarian and 3 other hostages

John Ridsdel, a former Calgarian, was one of four people abducted in the Philippines last year. Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed reports that Ridsdel had been killed. (@JBR10000/Twitter)

Family of John Ridsdel say they are devastated by his death at the hands of kidnappers in the Philippines. 

They say his life was "cut tragically short by this senseless act of violence despite us doing everything within our power to bring him home."

Ridsdel was one of four hostages, including fellow Canadian Robert Hall, held by the Abu Sayyaf militants since last September. 

The 68-year-old was described as semi-retired and was the former chief operating officer of mining company TVI Resource Development Philippines Inc., a subsidiary of Canada's TVI Pacific, where he was a consultant, a company officer said. 

The kidnappers had issued a ransom deadline that lapsed Monday morning. Evidence of a beheading was found along a street in Jolo town in Sulu province, according to Jolo police Chief Supt. Junpikar Sitin.

Mourning a 'great guy'

In a statement from the family, Ridsdel was described as "a kind and gregarious person who touched everyone he knew with his enthusiasm and generosity. He loved life and lived it to the fullest with his family and friends at the centre.

"He was loved by all his friends and adored by his daughters, sister and extended family. He will be sorely missed for all our days to come."

Don Kossick — a colleague from his time as a journalist with CBC in Regina, Sask. — said he "really liked" Ridsdel.

"He was really a warm, generous person," Kossick said in Saskatoon, Sask. "When I saw his name come up with that first kidnap he was a part of, I thought, 'My God. What a situation he's caught up in.' " 

Upon learning of the beheading of his friend, he said "my heart just crashed."

"He was a great guy," Sandy Hunter told CBC News. He was the best man at Ridsdel's wedding, and the two were former colleagues at CBC Calgary and Petro-Canada. 

Hunter said he is grateful for the time they spent together dating back to the 1970s.

The two lost touch in recent years, Hunter said, partly because he became uncomfortable with Ridsdel's increased work in problematic areas.

Reaction from the PM

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also spoke out against the killing while at a federal cabinet retreat in Alberta.

"I am outraged by the news that a Canadian citizen, John Ridsdel ... has been killed at the hands of his captors."

"This was an act of cold-blooded murder, and responsibility rests squarely with the terrorist group who took him hostage."

Trudeau outraged by killing of Canadian hostage

8 years ago
Duration 1:25
Featured VideoPrime Minister Justin Trudeau called the killing of a Canadian hostage in the Philippines an act of cold-blooded murder.

Trudeau condemned the "heinous" act and said the Canadian government will work with the Philippine government to bring those responsible to justice. He also offered deepest condolences to Ridsdel's friends and family.

Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose tweeted that she was shocked and saddened when she learned he was killed. 

In a statement, Ambrose said, "Incidents like this should remind all of us that the threat of terrorism remains very real. We must stand with our allies in solidarity against terrorism, which remains the greatest challenge that the world faces today."

Former Liberal MP and longtime friend Bob Rae was among the first to respond to the killing.

Rae has been in regular contact with Ridsdel's family.

"It's hard. It's just very hard. I've been involved behind the scenes for the last six months trying to find a solution and it's been very painful," said Rae.

Bob Rae talks about loss of friend John Ridsdel

8 years ago
Duration 4:14
Featured VideoFormer Liberal MP Bob Rae speaks to CBC Calgary's Rob Brown about the death of his friend John Ridsdel.

Seeking resolution

Officials in the Philippines had said earlier that government forces were moving to rescue the two Canadians and a Norwegian after their Muslim militant captors threatened to behead one of them if a huge ransom was not paid.

"Whether things could have been done differently, it's too soon for that to be said. Certainly the family did everything they could to try to reach a solution," said Rae.

His friendship with Ridsdel dates back to university in the 1960s. Rae said his friend had always been adventurous.

Canadians Robert Hall, left, and John Ridsdel, middle, and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad appeared in a YouTube video appealing to the Philippines government to stop military operations. (Site Intelligence Group/YouTube)

There's no immediate word about the other three being held hostage.

The kidnappers reportedly demanded 300 million pesos ($6.5 million) for each of the foreigners, who were seized along with a Filipino woman by gunmen in September last year from a marina on southern Samal Island. The hostages were believed to have been taken to Jolo Island in Sulu, a jungle-covered province where the militants are believed to be holding several hostages.

Police identified the foreigners as Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, who was the resort's marina manager, Ridsdel and Hall, as well as a Filipino woman. 

Officials said the president ordered the military and police to launch the rescue in the south of the country.

Jolo Mayor Hussin Amin condemned the beheading, blaming Abu Sayyaf militants who have been implicated in past kidnappings, beheadings and bombings.

"This is such a barbaric act by these people, and one would be tempted to think that they should also meet the same fate," Amin said by telephone. 

Abu Sayyaf known for extortion, kidnappings

University of Calgary terrorism expert Michael Zekulin said it's not clear how the killing of Ridsdel will affect the other hostages.

"It positions them in terms of the next negotiation perhaps, where people take them seriously and maybe it will lead to a more successful negotiation the next time," said Zekulin.

Abu Sayyaf emerged in the early 1990s as an offshoot of a separatist rebellion by minority Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation's south.

The group — which Canada and other Western countries consider a terrorist organization — has relied on extortion and huge ransoms earned from kidnappings of mostly Western tourists and missionaries.

Philippine officials said the hostages were taken at gunpoint during a late-night raid in September 2015 at the Oceanview resort on Samal island, in the southern Philippines. (Mapbox/Canadian Press)

Prairie upbringing

Ridsdel grew up in Yorkton, SK and is being remembered as a brilliant, compassionate man with a talent for friendship.

"He could bridge many communities, many people, many situations and circumstances and environments in a very gentle way," said Gerald Thurston, a lifelong friend who grew up with Ridsdel in Yorkton, Sask.

Thurston said Ridsdel is survived by two adult daughters from a former marriage. 

A man walks inside the compound of Holiday Ocean View Samal Resort a day after gunmen abducted a Norwegian resort manager, two Canadians and a Filipino woman. (Manuel Canyon/Associated Press)

With files from The Associated Press