Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Pirate captive wife makes tearful call as $7m is demanded

Kidnapped Rachel Chandler broke down in tears during her first contact since being taken hostage by Somali pirates a week ago.

Mrs Chandler urged her family not to worry, saying she and husband Paul were “safe” and described their captors as “very hospitable people”.

Hours after the call, it was reported that their abductors are demanding a ransom of $7m for their release.

The strain of being held at gunpoint since last Friday showed during Mrs Chandler’s phone call when broke down during a conversation with her brother Stephen Collett.

Mrs Chandler reassured her brother that she was being well cared for and managed to compose herself to continue the conversation.

“We're safe,” she said. “They are very hospitable people.

“Physically we're fine, physically we're healthy.”

Mrs Chandler (55) from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, was unable to say where the couple were being held.

Mr Collett asked his brother-in-law if he was being well looked after. Mr Chandler (59) replied: “So far, yes.”

Told the family was trying to secure their release, Mr Chandler said: “We know nothing here.”

Mr and Mrs Chandler were kidnapped from their yacht in the early hours of last Friday and, as their ordeal entered its second week, British Government officials held urgent talks on their plight at the Cobra emergency briefing room.

The couple were taken hostage as they sailed from the Seychelles towards Tanzania.

They were then forced to sail towards Somalia before eventually being moved onto a container ship, the Kota Wajar, which was seized by the pirate gang earlier this month.

Yesterday Mrs Chandler said they had been moved from the ship but was not able to say where they were being held.

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Thursday October 22: The couple set off from the Seychelles in their 38ft yacht Lynn Rival towards Tanzania.

Friday October 23: They enter their last post on their online travel blog in the morning. The alarm is raised when an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon is activated from their yacht at 11pm and the Seychelles authorities begin a search and rescue operation.

Tuesday October 27: News of the couple's disappearance breaks as Combined Task Force 151, an international naval response set up to combat Somali pirate attacks, and Nato and European Union counter piracy teams join the search. A news agency said it had been contacted by a pirate named Hassan who claimed he had the couple captive and ransom demands would follow.

Wednesday October 28: The Chandlers' relatives meet the Somali prime minister Omar Sharmarke in London. He said his government would do everything it could to “see a peaceful solution”.

Thursday October 29: The European Union Naval Force Somalia confirms that a yacht it was monitoring is the Lynn Rival. The Ministry of Defence said it was empty and the Chandlers' whereabouts were unknown. Somalian sources said they are being held captive after arriving at the pirate stronghold Harardhere. Paul Chandler tells ITV they were kidnapped as they slept on the yacht.

Friday October 30: The pirates say they will move the couple back to sea after letting them rest for a night on land. A spokesman said they would be moved to a ship anchored off the eastern coast of Somalia.

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