Yacht of 'pirate kidnap' couple is found

A YACHT belonging to a British couple apparently taken captive by Somali pirates off the east coast of Africa has been found without them on board.

Jonathan Schofield

A YACHT belonging to a British couple apparently taken captive by Somali pirates off the east coast of Africa has been found without them on board.

Retired quantity surveyor Paul Chandler, 59, and his wife, economist Rachel Chandler, 55, disappeared after sailing from the Seychelles towards Tanzania.

Authorities said there was no reason to believe that the couple had been harmed.

The news comes as Mrs Chandler's brother, who lices in Suffolk met the Somali Prime Minister yesterday.

Stephen Collett, of Ixworth, near Bury St Edmunds, had a private audience with Omar Sharmarke who gave assurances his government would do everything it could within its resources to find the couple and return them safely.

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Speaking after the meeting at Chatham House, Mr Collett's wife Christine said: “It was a very positive meeting but we are no clearer knowing what has happened to them.

“The Foreign Office have been very helpful too but can't seem to confirm anything. If they do confirm they have been kidnapped we know they don't pay ransoms to pirates and it will be down to us to get them back.”

The pair were heading towards the Amirante Islands in their 38ft yacht the Lynn Rival through Somali waters notorious for pirate attacks when they sent a distress signal last Friday.

Last night, the European Union Naval Force Somalia said it was tracking a yacht heading towards the Somali coast.

A pirate called Hussan issued a warning to Britain not to rescue the couple.

He told Reuters News Agency: "If warships surround us, we shall point our guns at the British tourists.

"They are old and we will take care of them - that is if we are not attacked.”

Before leaving to meet the Somali PM yesterday, Mr Collett said he was holding onto the hope his sister and brother-in-law could well be sailing through the Indian Ocean oblivious to the major search taking place for them.

He said: "We really are as much in the dark over this as anyone else. We have been speaking to the Foreign Office but all the reports coming out of Somalia are totally unverified at the moment.

“There are reports of a Somali pirate claiming he has them and I've heard that he wants �20,000 just to tell the story so I'm not taking anything as truth yet."

He said the couple, who do not have any children, had been devoted to sailing all their lives and had been planning the trip for many years.

They made their first payment for Lynn Rival 30 years ago and only bought it outright three years ago before embarking on their retirement round-the-world voyage.

Mr Collett said the yacht was probably 50 years old.

He added: "People seem to have this image that they are mega-rich sailing around the world in an Abramovich style yacht which is not the case.

"We know their alarm went off last Friday during the night but the alarm is kept in a holster and they are often triggered accidentally.

“More than half of alarm calls on yachts are accidental. Of course we are concerned about them, it was their dream to do this but all we can do now is sit and wait."