‘Asking how Pierre died won’t bring him back’

Pierre Korkie's wife Yolande addressed the media in Johannesburg today.

Yolande Korkie addresses the press after Pierre's body arrived in South Africa on 9 December 2014. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The wife of South African teacher Pierre Korkie says it won't help to ask what led to his death as that will not bring him back.

Pierre's wife Yolande, who was kidnapped with him in Yemen but later released and told to come up with a $3 million ransom, addressed the media in Johannesburg today.

On Saturday, 53-year-old Korkie was killed when US Armed Forces tried to rescue an American journalist,. Luke Somers, held in the same place in Yemen by al-Qaeda terrorists.

"My last memories of Pierre... we held each other. He was already deaf, but said I love you and I love the children. My husband has a heart for poor people. The poverty sprung us into action when we arrived. Everything that happened is something we need to work through, but we truly forgive our captors unconditionally."

Yolande says, although the family has lost Pierre, they do not regret anything that happens because of God's will.

"We visualised his return differently but have intense relief that he has come back, that he has been returned to us. They [the children] wrote letters and we cooked his favourite food, wore his old Grey College shirts. We keep his legacy alive. Most of all, I deeply mourn for my children's loss. They never said goodbye, but I had that opportunity."

She also thanked the South African government and the Gift of the Givers foundation for negotiating Korkie's release in the days before he was killed.

"There are so many angels that I have met along this journey. Thank you for your perseverance and persistence."

The family says Yolande is writing a book about her experience in captivity and a memorial will be held for her husband in Bloemfontein.


Korkie's body was sent for a post-mortem at a government mortuary in Pretoria after arriving at the Waterkloof Air Force Base this morning.

His family were joined by diplomatic officials from South Africa as well as the US ambassador to South Africa Patrick Gaspard.

The Bloemfontein teacher's body was handed over from US military custody to the South African government three days after he was killed.


The US claims both hostages were executed by the terrorists who were alerted to the raid by a barking dog only 100m away from where they were being kept.

Retired Navy Seal Commander James Liddy says their training includes unexpected hostages in the same positions and the US soldiers were certainly prepared.

"We have ever gone in on a mission that we didn't expect to have those types of surprises. We may not have intelligence on who they are and how many, but we expect that."

But Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman says the Yemeni government was aware of the plan to free Korkie, but he does not know if the US forces were informed.