We are bony but fine: British couple after kidnap ordeal

Monday, November 15, 2010

LONDON - “We are rather skinny and bony but we’re fine,” said a British couple after their release by Somali pirates who had beaten and starved them during their terrifying 13-month kidnap ordeal.

Freed hostages Paul and Rachel Chandler announced their freedom Sunday night by revealing: “We are rather skinny and bony but we’re fine. We are happy to be alive.”

They were handed over in the Somali town of Adado, Daily Express reported Monday.

The Chandler couple from Tunbridge Wells, Kent was taken hostage after their yacht was seized by the pirates in October 2009.

They stayed at the British High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya Sunday night, after being flown from the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

The news came after the couple’s friends and supporters held secret talks with the gun-toting kidnappers.

It was understood they negotiated and paid a ransom fee of $1 million (600,000 pounds).

Chandler, 60, and his 57-year-old wife spoke briefly of their freedom. “We were told on Friday and in a way which gave us some confidence to believe it,” said Chandler, a retired quantity surveyor.

“We’d been told we were going to be released in 10 days almost every 10 days for nine months.” Asked what he wanted to do next, he added: “We haven’t got a list at all. We have been taking every day as it comes and not thinking about what we have no control over.”

His wife said: “We are so happy to be amongst decent, everyday people, Somalis, people from anywhere in the world who are not criminals. We’ve been a year with criminals and that’s not a very nice thing to be doing.”

Although Britain refused to waive its policy of not negotiating with hostage-takers, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Paul and Rachel Chandler’s release is tremendous news.”

The couple’s family said in a statement how they received the “wonderful news” Saturday that their 388-day ordeal was coming to an end.

They said the couple were not millionaires but “two retired people on a sailing trip on a small private yacht”.

The statement added: “Thankfully, common sense finally prevailed and a solution was obtained for their release in the last few days.”

TV footage Sunday showed the couple walking in Adado and undergoing a medical examination.

The mayor of the town, Mohamed Aden, said the Chandlers were taken to a safe house in Adado - a small town near the Ethiopian border - where they had a shower and changed clothes. They also met Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed.

Aden said the couple then had a 90-minute nap and when they woke enjoyed what he called a “British” breakfast of fried eggs.

The Chandlers’ ordeal began Oct 23 last year when their 38 feet-yacht, the Lynn Rival, was attacked by pirates.

The couple had been sailing around the world for several years and left the Seychelles heading for Tanzania Oct 22.

The next day their route took them near Somali waters notorious for pirate attacks.

Their capture was first reported four days later after one of the armed pirates contacted a news agency and said a ransom would follow. They demanded $7 million.

The Chandlers also made appeals for help on TV, permitted by the pirates. The emaciated couple told of being beaten, starved and kept apart.

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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