14 Nov 2010

Somalia kidnap: Paul and Rachel Chandler freed

British yachting couple Paul and Rachel Chandler are freed alive, after being held hostage in Somalia by pirates for more than a year.

Earlier today the Chandlers were handed over to local officials in the Somalian town of Adaddo – a seven hour drive from the remote encampment where they were being held.

They were met by the Somali prime minister, who held a brief press conference during which Rachel Chandler said they were just so happy to be alive.

She added: “We are so happy to be here. We are desperate to see our family and friends. We are so happy to be alive, to be among decent everyday people.”

The Chandlers then headed for the Kenyan Capital of Nairobi where they are expected to be met by British consular staff.

“We are so happy to be here. We are desperate to see our family and friends. We are so happy to be alive, to be among decent everyday people.”

They were seized in October last year while sailing from the Seychelles towards Tanzania.

The pirates who were holding them told Channel 4 News that a $300,000 ransom was delivered in the last few days, most of it believed to have come from the Somali government.

Around $500,000 is understood to already have been paid by the Chandler’s relatives. This morning the couple said they were “tired but happy”.

Channel 4 News exclusive: Chandlers' ransom brokered by Somali Briton

Jonathan Rugman, reporting from Nairobi, meets the former London minicab driver who claims to have masterminded the release of the British yachting couple Paul and Rachel Chandler.

The middleman who masterminded the release of Paul and Rachel Chandler is Dahir Abdullahi Kadiye, a former minicab driver from London who oversaw the transfer of a ransom of more than $450 000 to the Somali pirates and their financial backers.

Mr Kadiye is a 56 year old Somali Briton who divides his time between his wife and children in Leytonstone, East London, and his native Somalia.

Read more: Chandlers' ransom brokered by Somali Briton
Chandler graphic

The kidnapping

The couple from Tunbridge Wells were enjoying the yachting holiday of a lifetime when they were taken hostage by pirates in the Indian Ocean late last year.
Paul and Rachel Chandler set off from the Seychelles en route to Tanzania when their yacht was boarded by armed men who took them captive on October 22 2009.

It emerged later that a Royal Navy refuelling ship, the Wave Knight, was just a hundred metres or so away when the pirates were aboard the yacht and saw the couple being abducted. The British sailors, however, were ordered not to open fire in case their actions risked the lives of the Chandlers.

A week later – in a phone call to ITV news – Paul Chandler described the moment “men with guns” took him and his wife hostage. The pirates then took the couple to Somalia where they were moved to various locations during their captivity.

Chandlers' family: 'common sense prevailed'

Paul and Rachel Chandler are in "good spirits" their family said in a statement. "Thankfully, common sense finally prevailed and a solution was obtained for their release in the last few days.

"There will be the inevitable questions of how their release was achieved," the statement said.

Read more: Chandlers' family: 'common sense prevailed'

In November 2009 the Chandlers made a direct video plea, obtained by Channel 4 News, warning the UK authorities that their kidnappers may kill them. Speaking of an intense mental strain, the couple urged the UK government to open negotiations with the pirates. “We are concerned that these people will lose patience,” Paul Chandler said.

On their latest plea for freedom – broadcast by Channel 4 News in May this year – the Chandlers spoke of their “mental torture” after being separated from each other for 97 of their more than 200 days in captivity.

Appearing in reasonable health the couple were allowed to talk relatively freely to the freelance Somali journalist, Jamal Osman.

They were driven to a secret location in windswept Somali scrubland, somewhere between the towns of Adado and Haradhere, miles from any human settlement.

The Chandlers, who it is believed were constantly moved during their stay, were escorted by around 10 pirates travelling in two 4×4 cars – all the men heavily armed.

Paul Chandler, a 60-year-old retired civil engineer, appealed to Prime Minister David Cameron to secure their freedom.

“If the government is not prepared to help, then they must say so, because the gangsters’ expectations and hopes have been raised at the thought of a new government and there might be a different approach,” he said.

Speaking about her life in captivity Rachel Chandler, a 56-year-old economist, said they had been “caged up like animals”.

“We are just animals to them,” she said.

“We have been kept caged up like animals. They don’t care about our feelings and our family and our lives and what they’ve taken. They don’t care whose lives they ruin. They just want the money.

“They don’t understand that we are just ordinary people. They think we come from a rich country and that if they point a gun at us and threaten us that we will find a way of raising money.”

At first the pirate gang demanded a huge ransom for their release, though they since said they were open to negotiation. It is official British government policy not to pay ransoms to kidnappers.