Aucklander recounts being Iraqi hostage, 30 years on

A New Zealand journalist is accusing the British government of continuing to cover up key details of what really happened to British Airways Flight 149 30 years ago.

In August 1990, the flight landed in Kuwait hours after Iraq had invaded and hundreds of passengers, including two Kiwis, were taken hostage for months.

They were used as human shields and political pawns by Iraq's President Saddam Hussein who had them moved to key facilities across Kuwait and Iraq to prevent them being bombed.

After 30 years of denials, this week the British foreign secretary of state Liz Truss admitted the British government knew the invasion was underway and had failed to alert Flight 149.

Britain's ambassador to Kuwait had called the Foreign Office to alert them hours before the flight landed.

"The call made by HMA Kuwait has never been publicly disclosed or acknowledged until today," Truss said in a written statement earlier this week.

"These files show that the existence of the call was not revealed to Parliament and the public, this failure was unacceptable.

As the current Secretary of State, I apologise to the House for this, and I express my deepest sympathy to those who were detained and mistreated."

Two Kiwis, Henry and Daphne Halkyard, were taken hostage but eventually released.

Speaking to Television New Zealand on their flight home in October 1990 they said said it was "an absolute nightmare from beginning to end".

"As soon as you got off the plane and saw the situation you realised you might have been taken out and shot at any moment," Daphne said.

A flight attendant on British Airways Flight 149, Helen Peters, told 1News that she was held hostage for about a month, but was treated a lot better than the men on the flight.

"I often had reoccurring nightmares that I was stuck in another war I actually felt very unsafe in my own country, hence we actually moved to New Zealand 15 years ago and as soon as we arrived in New Zealand I just felt we were safe, it still has an effect on me now."

"We were treated pretty well, there was a lack of food, we didn't have much to eat at all, we were only there for a month and it was obviously after we went that the guys were held hostage were mistreated, a lot of them were mistreated."

Peters said this week's apology didn't cut it.

"Thirty years just to acknowledge yes we did know, it's no excuse really."

New Zealand journalist Stephen Davis has just published a book on flight on BA Flight 149, Operation Trojan Horse, and he said some of the hostages were badly mistreated.

"They were subject to rapes and sexual assaults, mock executions, near starvation conditions many of them had their lives ruined for ever," he told 1News this week.

"Today's UK Government apology is significant and it's useful to have but it's a half-truth."

"They also clearly demonstrated from today's statement that two British Prime Minister's Margaret Thatcher and John Major lied about what happened to BA 149, so it's a breakthrough it's just not the whole truth."

Davis said the British Government is still covering up the fact that they had put a military team on the flight in order to sneak them into Kuwait.

"They need to say, yes sorry we put a secret team on the plane, it was a mission that went wrong, we're sorry and we owe you compensation."