Former Iraq hostage Douglas Wood has died.
Former Iraq hostage Douglas Wood has died.

Former Iraq hostage Douglas Wood remembered for his bravery

Former Iraq hostage Douglas Wood has been remembered as a larger-than-life character who continued to adore the Geelong Cats until his dying days.

The 78-year-old was found dead at his Melbourne home on Thursday after years of battling health problems.

Mr Wood, who was raised in Geelong, shot to international prominence in 2005 when he was kidnapped while working as an engineer in Iraq.

He endured a brutal hostage ordeal at the hands of captors who murdered his two colleagues and threatened to decapitate him in a bid to force the United States out of Iraq.

Mr Wood was freed after 47 days following a military operation involving Iraqi and US forces.

 

MAY 6, 2005 : A video grab taken from the Qatari based al-Jazeera news channel 06/05/05 shows Australian hostage Douglas Wood pleading for his life as two men point guns at his head at an undisclosed location in Iraq.
MAY 6, 2005 : A video grab taken from the Qatari based al-Jazeera news channel 06/05/05 shows Australian hostage Douglas Wood pleading for his life as two men point guns at his head at an undisclosed location in Iraq.

He famously asked for news on his beloved Cats immediately after the rescue, before the club welcomed him into its inner sanctum upon his return.

Lifelong friend David Edge said he would remember Mr Wood for his happy-go-lucky nature.

"He loved life and was full of fun," he said. "He was very outgoing, very full of life."

Mr Edge said he could ­vividly recall playing football alongside Mr Wood for Barwon Heads-Ocean Grove during their youth.

"He wasn't a very skilful player, but really got into it," he said.

"He broke his nose once and his father said to him, 'Right, you can't play until your nose gets fixed'.

Cats fan Douglas Wood in his Geelong jumper gets ready for the finals
Cats fan Douglas Wood in his Geelong jumper gets ready for the finals

 

Douglas Wood at the Geelong clubrooms after the game. Here he sings the song with Brenton Sanderson.
Douglas Wood at the Geelong clubrooms after the game. Here he sings the song with Brenton Sanderson.

 

"He played the following weekend. He was standing on the mark and the guy booted the ball into his face to make his nose worse."

Mr Edge said that while his friend suffered with health problems following the kidnapping, especially with his eyesight, the ordeal had failed to dampen his strong character.

"He was still the same person, just physically in very bad shape," Mr Edge said.

"He was still full of life, loved his football and loved following the Cats.

"He loved a beer and would try going to games when he could."

JUNE 15, 2005: Photo issued by Australia's counterterrorism chief Warner of freed Australian hostage Douglas Wood sitting in back of coalition military vehicle soon after his release in Baghdad, 15/06/05 was found | freed by Iraqi troops.
JUNE 15, 2005: Photo issued by Australia's counterterrorism chief Warner of freed Australian hostage Douglas Wood sitting in back of coalition military vehicle soon after his release in Baghdad, 15/06/05 was found | freed by Iraqi troops.

 

15/06/2005. In this image made from video released by the US Department of Defense, freed Australian hostage Douglas Wood, smiles while receiving medical checks at a US military facility in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo/US Department of Defense)
15/06/2005. In this image made from video released by the US Department of Defense, freed Australian hostage Douglas Wood, smiles while receiving medical checks at a US military facility in Baghdad, Iraq. (AP Photo/US Department of Defense)

Former Geelong College schoolmate and mayor Jim Fidge recalled his close bond with Mr Wood as young teenagers in East Geelong.

"Doug and I were very close at school. We virtually grew up together," he said.

"We renewed that friendship some years later when he became quite an extraordinary person."

Following his rescue, Mr Wood's love for the Cats led to him being invited into the clubrooms and singing the team song, while the club made him a member for life.

In a 2007 article for the Addy, Mr Wood wrote that he drew hope from Geelong sides of the past while he was being subjected to brutality from his captors.

03/05/2005 Copy/Pic of school friend David Edge (L) with Douglas Wood at Geelong Collage - Douglas Wood, 63yrs was kidnapped by Iraqi terrorists and held hostage Apr 2005
03/05/2005 Copy/Pic of school friend David Edge (L) with Douglas Wood at Geelong Collage - Douglas Wood, 63yrs was kidnapped by Iraqi terrorists and held hostage Apr 2005

"When I was lying on the hard floor, blindfolded and handcuffed in 50-degree heat, gagging on my bread and water diet, and getting kicks and gun butt bashes to the head, I refused to give up," he said.

"I was a hostage, but my mind was free. I resurrected in my mind the champion teams of 1951, 1952 and 1963 … These memories gave me hope."

Former Geelong president Frank Costa said Mr Wood cherished the opportunity to rub shoulders with his football heroes.

"He was thrilled that the club invited him down. He was pumped right up," Mr Costa said. "He was quite a convivial fellow. He was in good spirits, he wasn't downhearted and unhappy at all."

Mr Wood will be privately cremated and family and friends will later celebrate his life.


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