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British kidnap couple make video plea

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 20 November 2009

Hostages Paul and Rachel Chandler have made a direct plea in a video obtained by Channel 4 News, warning UK authorities they fear the Somali pirates who kidnapped them may kill them. Jonathan Rugman reports.

Paul and Rachel Chandler (Source: Channel 4 News)

The couple, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, were taken captive by pirates on 22 October as they sailed their yacht, the Lynn Rival, in the Indian Ocean.

In the two minute video, filmed on land, the couple look thin, tired and stressed. Behind them the kidnappers brandish guns, at one point aiming their weapons directly at the Chandlers.

Mr Chandler, 59, speaks first and says:"This is our 27th day in captivity. So far we have been provided with adequate food and water and facilities, and so we are unharmed and in reasonable physical health.

"Mentally we under great stress and threatened. Our kidnappers are losing patience. They are concerned that their has been no response at all to their demands for money.

"We ask the government and the people of Britain, and our families, to do whatever you can to at least open negotiations with these people about money, so perhaps our lives can be brought back.

"We have been threatened that there is a terrorist gang at large in the country looking for us. We are also concerned that these people will lose patience and will not feed us.

"And I have no doubt that they will not hesitiate to kill us in a week or so from now if there is no response. So, please somebody get in touch otherwise we are just sleep-walking to a tragic ending."

Rachel Chandler, 55, also spoke directly to the camera. Looking frightened she says: "We are under threat and we are told that we will not be fed and given water so we are very concerned about the future.

"Our captors are very impatient now that nobody has been in touch to enter into negotiations. So we ask the  government and the people of Britain and our family to do whatever they can to enter into negotiations with these people to buy back our lives.

"As Paul has said we are told that there is a terrorist cell or a fanatic cell searching for us and we are also feeling very much under threat now that these people themselves won't hesitate to take our lives."

The cameraman asked the Chandlers if they were happy to be filmed and the couple said yes.

The Foreign Office released a statement on the video saying: "We are aware of the video.  Any such video will be distressing for the family.

"The UK Government's policy is clear: We do not make substantive concessions to hostage takers, including the payment of ransoms.

"These are innocent tourists.  We seek the immediate release of Paul and Rachel."

The pirates have previously demanded a $7m (£4.2m) ransom.

Foreign affairs correspondent Jonathan Rugman says: "Britain's stated position is still that Britain does not pay ransoms and there is a feeling that this situation off the Somali coast has got completely out of hand.

"Ship owners and their insurance companies have paid pirate ransoms which has led to the situation where the pirates holding the Chandlers think they are worth something.

"This is a dangerous hostage situation but reading between the lines I think the plan is to put pressure on local Somali clans, to put pressure on the Somali pirates, to have the Chandlers released.

"The problem is persuading the pirates that the Chandlers are not worth as much as the big ships that sitting offshore for which millions have already been paid to have them released.

"The British government is trying to keep in the background, it would rather not be party to the scene. Even if the pirates do decide they are not worth anything and they want to release the Chandlers, how are they going to escape, which route are they going to take?"

Paul and Rachel Chandler set off from the Seychelles in their 38ft yacht towards Tanzania on Thursday 22 October, entering their last blog update a few hours later.

The post read "Please ring Sarah", Mrs Chandler's sister. Shortly afterwards an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon was activated from the Indian Ocean and a search and rescue operation began.

News of their disappearance did not break in the UK for a further four days when a dedicated naval response unit was joined by Nato and European Union counter piracy teams in the hunt for the couple from Kent.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has previously urged the pirates to release the couple, describing hostage-taking as "unacceptable".

Paul Chandler has previously made contact via the news media, telling ITV News about the ordeal on a mobile phone on 29 October.

Mr Chandler, a quantity surveyor, and his economist wife, took early retirement about three years ago. They have spent several six-month spells at sea.

The video was shot on Wednesday and ITN, which makes Channel 4 News, informed their relatives in the UK later that day that Mr and Mrs Chandler had spoken to camera. The relatives viewed the pictures today (Friday) and agreed they should be broadcast.

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