The 63-year-old engineer touched down in Melbourne with his American wife Yvonne Given, less than a week after his 47-day hostage ordeal ended when Iraqi and US forces rescued him from a house in Baghdad.
At a press conference to mark his return, Mr Wood displayed the larrikin attitude referred to by his brothers Malcolm and Vernon Wood, branding his captors “arseholes” when asked what he thought of them.
He was accompanied at the press conference by his wife and two brothers.
He told reporters he didn’t know what group his captors were associated with, and admitted there were times he thought he would be killed.
“I didn’t know whether it was al-Qaeda or who it was. I didn’t know … obviously, my head is intact, so it wasn’t al-Qaeda,” he said.
He said he tried to remain upbeat and “keep laughing” during the crisis.
“I love my family, and I knew that they would be doing everything they could,” he said.
He said he hadn’t heard of the Mufti of Australia, Sheikh Taj Aldin Alhilali, during his captivity but learned of the Muslim cleric’s efforts to secure his release after he was freed.
Asked if his captors had ever mentioned the mufti, Mr Wood replied: “No.”
Sheikh Alhilali also arrived back in Australia this morning following his mercy mission to free Mr Wood.
The Australian mufti arrived back in Sydney and spoke briefly to the media before leaving with members of the Islamic community.
“I really, really happy,” he said. “My mission was successful.”
Sheik Alhilali says he organised a deal with Mr Wood’s captors to release him the same day as the raid by troops and that the captors were unarmed when troops raided the house.
Sheikh Alhilali compared the rescue mission to a soccer match and said he had only played a minor role.
“I’m a small player in the Australian team,” he said. “We have a good coach; our coach is Mr (Prime Minister John) Howard. The captain of the team is Mr (Attorney General Philip) Ruddock, goalkeeper (is Foreign Minister) Alexander Downer… I would like to thank all of them.”
However the sheikh later had harsh words for the US-Iraqi raid that freed Mr Wood describing it as a “stupid action” which was likely to lead to the death of two Iraqis being held with Mr Wood.
He said all the hostages could have been freed if only military authorities had waited 12 hours.
At his press conference, Mr Wood apologised for his plea for Australia to pull its troops out of Iraq. Those comments were made under duress, he said.
“I actually believe that I am proof positive that the current policy of training the Iraqi army… works because it was Iraqis that got me out,” he said.
Mr Wood described the moments before he was rescued as “a bit tense” until “I fully worked out it was the Iraqi army (who) were my releasers, rather than another pack of captors.”
He said he was held in two different houses, and remembers being moved from one to the other about 10 days into his ordeal.
Asked if he was feeling fragile, he said: “Not especially. I’ve got some physical ailments and I’ve been deprived of medication for a bit”.
Certain aspects of his ordeal were still too traumatic to discuss, Mr Wood said, but he was clearly overjoyed to be on home soil, entering today’s press conference singing “Waltzing Matilda”.
Mr Wood said he might one day go back to Iraq to pursue business opportunities, despite what had happened.
However his brothers were trying to persuade him not to return.
“I will listen very seriously to my brothers,” Mr Wood promised.
Mr Wood said the hostage crisis had brought his family closer together and revealed their “very deep, strong, loving bond”.
Yvonne Given said the past seven weeks had been an emotional roller coaster ride, but she never lost faith her husband would return.
“I’m so excited and so happy. I’m very grateful to the Australian government and the Iraqis and US government,” she said.
Mr Wood denied signing an exclusive deal to tell his story and dismissed speculation of product endorsements following his release.
“I want to relax, enjoy myself and get myself back together,” he said.
Mr Wood offered a sentence of advice to Australians considering working in war-torn Baghdad.
“Stay in the green zone,” he said, of the heavily fortified central city area.