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Update on Kidnapped Cruisers - Paul and Rachel Chandler

By Val Ellis last modified Dec 17, 2009 08:51 PM

Published: 2009-12-17 20:51:35
Topics: Piracy Reports 2009

As reported by Ecoterra International, 16th December 2009

Paul and Rachel Chandler, the British couple kidnapped by Somali pirates, have pleaded with the government to “get us out by Christmas, by whatever means”.

The pair, taken captive from their yacht more than seven weeks ago, accused British officials of refusing to help secure their release. Three weeks ago, in a video appearance, they begged for the government to intervene, saying that they feared they might be killed within a matter of days.

However, in a telephone interview with the Sunday Times, Mr Chandler, 59, vented his despair at the lack of progress in negotiations, admitting: “We don’t think there’s much chance, seriously.” Mr Chandler, a retired quantity surveyor, said: “We have no knowledge of what is happening in Britain except that we have been told that the government has refused to become involved. “As far as we are concerned it is not a straightforward piracy business, it is a plain criminal kidnapping and ... should be approached with a rather different approach than the government uses. “When you have a criminal gang carrying out a kidnapping, the government should not be averse to negotiating with that gang and following it up with whatever means. I don’t think the government should step back and say ‘this is nothing to do with us’. “I would like to say to the British government: get us out by Christmas, by whatever means.”

Pirates seized the Chandlers on October 23 as the couple sailed from the Seychelles in their 38ft yacht Lynn Rival towards Tanzania. They were later taken on land in Somalia and are being constantly moved around, living in vehicles, as their captors make various hostage demands. It has since emerged that a Royal Navy warship manned by at least 10 Royal Marines and equipped with a helicopter were just 50 yards away but took no action as the pirates seized the couple.

The Ministry of Defence admitted that Bob Ainsworth, the defence secretary, had authorised the Royal Marines to intervene but it said it was the ship’s commander who decided it was unsafe to attempt a rescue.

In November, the couple appeared in a video being held at gunpoint by their captors as they pleaded for the government to negotiate their release. They warned that the kidnappers were “losing patience” and that they “won’t hesitate to take our lives”. The Sunday Times obtained the most recent interview with the couple through, “Omar”, a local journalist who travelled to the area where they are being held and allowed them to speak to the newspaper via his mobile phone.

The Foreign Office refuses to negotiate with hostage takers. A spokesman said: “We call for the release of Paul and Rachel. Our efforts are ongoing to secure the safe release of the couple. We are in close touch with the family.” Mr Chandler and his wife, a 55-year-old economist, retired about three years ago and have spent much of their time since sailing around the Indian Ocean. Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, has previously urged the pirates to release the couple, describing hostage-taking as "unacceptable".

See previous report on 20th November.