Lowestoft hostage back in Britain

Lowestoft Royal Marine Mark Banks is back in Britain after 13 days in captivity.The 14 men and one woman left Tehran on a British Airways flight this morning and touched down at Heathrow at noon.

Lowestoft Royal Marine Mark Banks is back in Britain after 13 days in captivity.

The 14 men and one woman left Tehran on a British Airways flight this morning and touched down at Heathrow at noon.

They travelled then flew in waiting helicopters to the Royal Marines' base at Chivenor in Devon.

Earlier Mr Banks's family had spoken of their relief and joy after hearing of Iran's decision to release the 15 British service personnel.

The dramatic announcement by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was greeted with delight at the family home.

Mr Banks' brother, Neil, 26, said: It's been a really, really difficult time. We didn't think we would ever get to the end of the tunnel, but we are there now. We just want to see him back home on British soil and I'll be having a few beers with my little brother when he gets back.

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“We're absolutely delighted. I can't wait to see that cheeky smile and that laughing face. It has been very distressing and emotional, but we have a good family and good friends, who have helped to see us through.”

Mr Banks said his parents, Allistair and Penny were still coming to terms with their 24-year-old son's capture and were “pretty frayed”.

He added: “We have had lots of messages of support and we are very grateful for them. I love my brother to bits and I am terribly proud of what he has done. I know my parents are too.

“Mark will be absolutely stunned at the amount of attention he is receiving. He will be totally overwhelmed and I would guess he will have no idea of the attention he's got.

“He is very tough and he will have been keeping a lot of the others laughing. He would have been boosting morale and I'm sure he will have coped well. My brother is a bit of a joker and I'm sure he would have made the best of a very difficult situation.”

Mr Banks said his brother could expect a big welcome. “We'll be celebrating once he gets home and will have a big night out at the pub.”

Mr Banks' parents added in a statement: “We are elated to hear the news and we can't wait to be reunited with our son. We are thankful for all the support we have received from out friends and family and we all can't wait to have Mark home soon.”

Royal Marine Banks, a former Pakefield Primary and Middle school and Kirkley High pupil has served with the Royal Marines for about three years.

He also took a business studies course at Lowestoft College and worked at a local printing firm before joining the marines.

Former team-mates at Lowestoft-based Kirkley Football club, where Mr Banks used to play for the reserves, were among many friends who have been anxiously waiting for news about the captured marines and sailors.

Kirkley manager Nick Shorten said: “It's great that Mark is going to be coming home. His family have been through a difficult time so for it all to be resolved is excellent. He has got a lot of friends in the area and at the football club so I'm sure there will be a lot of happy people in the town tonight.”