A British couple being held hostage by pirates who kidnapped them from their yacht yesterday described the terrifying moment “men with guns came aboard”.
Paul Chandler and his wife Rachel, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, were captured in the early hours of last Friday when armed men boarded their yacht, Mr Chandler said in a phone call with ITV News.
“I was off watch. I was asleep and men with guns came aboard. It was on Friday last week at 0230,” he said.
ITV News managed to speak to Mr Chandler shortly before 11am GMT yesterday after men claiming to be Somalian pirates contacted them.
After a complicated series of phone calls which ended with reporters being asked to call two numbers at the same time, ITV News's UK editor Angus Walker spoke to Mr Chandler.
Mrs Chandler's brother Stephen Collett confirmed it was his brother-in-law's voice after he heard a recording of the call.
At the time of the call Mr Chandler said the couple were being held “hostage” a mile off the coast of Somalia on the Kota Wajar, a container ship which was hijacked in the Indian Ocean on October 15.
It is now believed they have been taken to a village in Somalia and British officials were last night trying to secure their release.
During the phone call Mr Chandler said the couple were forced to sail towards Somalia after their boat was captured.
“We are hostage together with this ship,” the retired quantity surveyor said.
His captors had not asked for a ransom, Mr Chandler said: “Not officially — they kept asking for money and took everything of value on the boat.”
Mr Walker asked Mr Chandler how he was being treated but the line was lost before he could answer.
The call began by Mr Walker passing on a message from Mr Collett.
“Stephen says everyone here is fine, we are all thinking of you and just hope you are both well — can't wait to speak to you and see you,” he said.
Mr Chandler replied: “Well, that's awfully nice”, and laughed.
Mr Collett (58) and his wife Christine (52) were among family members who met Somali prime minister Omar Sharmarke in London yesterday.
Mr Collett said Mr Sharmarke told him pirates look after hostages well as “they see them as trade goods and want to keep them so they can barter”.
Hostage’s phone call: the transcript
Part of the transcript of the call between Angus Walker from ITV News and Paul Chandler:
Walker: “Paul can you describe how you are being held?”
Chandler: “We are at the moment in the captain's cabin of the container ship Kota Wajar — container ship.”
Walker: “Have you been rescued or have you been kidnapped?”
Chandler: “We are hostage together with this ship.”
Walker: “Can you describe how you were taken hostage?”
Chandler: “Yes we were ... miles from the ... to the Seychelles.”
Walker: “And what happened?”
Chandler: “I was asleep and men with guns came aboard — it was on Friday last week at 0230 local time.”
Walker: “What happened then?”
Chandler: “Then we were forced to sail er ... sail on motor towards Somalia...”
Walker: “Have your hostage takers demanded any ransom?”
Chandler: “Not officially — they kept asking for money and took everything of value on the boat.”
Walker: “Do you know what nationality of ship you are being held on?”
Chandler: “Yes — a container ship — name is Kota Wajar — a Singapore ship.”
Walker: “How are you being treated?”
Contact was then lost.