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Freed hostage couple savour freedom

Paul and Rachel Chandler enjoying their first full day of freedom in the UK after returning from their year-long hostage nightmare.

The retired couple touched down at Heathrow Airport on Tuesday, before walking down the steps of their plane with beaming smiles on their faces.

Their return to British soil brought to an end a 388-day ordeal which began in October 2009, when their yacht was seized by armed Somali pirates as it sailed from the Seychelles towards Tanzania.

The couple, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, landed at Heathrow at 6.44pm on Tuesday, on board Virgin Atlantic flight VS672 from Nairobi.

Mr and Mrs Chandler, aged 60 and 57 respectively, left the plane separately from other passengers. They smiled as they disembarked and met waiting airport officials on the tarmac. They were then taken to a private location to be reunited with friends and family and debriefed by officials.

In the coming days the couple are expected to hold talks with media advisers and discuss interview deals. It is believed some of the money earned will be used to help pay back the ransom reportedly given to the pirates to secure their release.

The Chandlers were released on Sunday and handed over to local officials in the Somali town of Adado after a fee of up to a million dollars (£620,000) was reportedly paid to their kidnappers.

They were then flown to the capital, Mogadishu, and on to Nairobi, Kenya.

They only learned after their release that Mr Chandler's father, Alfred, had died while they were being held.

Their return came after more than 12 months of threats from their captors and fears for their physical and mental health. Speaking after their release, Mr Chandler said: "We're fine. We are rather skinny and bony but we're fine."


From Belfast Telegraph