Forgotten Couple Still in Hands of Somali Pirates
October 2009 – It was a dream holiday. Retired British couple, Paul and Rachel Chandler were sailing their yacht, the Lynn Rival, around the Seychelles. The couple, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, were keen sailors, and were enjoying a round-the-world trip.Paul, 59, was a Quantity Surveyor; his wife, Rachel, 55, an economist. They had been spending their retirement sailing their yacht around the world.On Friday 23rd, they were in the Indian Ocean, off the Somali coast, en route from the Seychelles to Tanzania. Nearby was the Wave Knight, a Royal Fleet Auxiliary replenishment tanker. On board were 75 merchant seamen and 25 Royal Navy sailors. A helicopter sat on its deck, ready to take to the skies if needed.It was 2.30 in the morning, and the Chandlers were asleep. Suddenly they were awakened by armed men boarding their yacht. No doubt they thought for a moment that they were having a nightmare. In fact, they were – only this nightmare was for real.Acting quickly, they sent a distress signal with the message, “PLEASE CALL SARAH,” as the Somali pirates seized their vessel. They were ordered at gunpoint to change course and head for Somalia.The crew of the Wave Knight looked on helplessly as the scene played out before them. They couldn’t do anything to stop the pirates for fear of endangering the Chandlers’ lives. So, they stood there, unwilling witnesses to a heinous kidnapping.On board the Lynn Rival, the terrified British couple feared for their lives. The pirates demanded money from them and stripped the yacht of anything of value.Moored off the port of Haradhere, a pirate stronghold in Somalia, was the Singapore-registered container ship, the Kota Wajah. Pirates had seized this vessel previously.Paul and Rachel were taken aboard the Kota Wajah to be held for ransom. Their yacht, after having been stripped of anything of value, was released.A pirate calling himself Hassan, spoke to Somali journalist Abukar Albadri, saying, “They have been captured by our brothers, who patrol the coast. We have been informed about their presence in the area, where bandits operate.”He added that the captives were healthy, and that ransom demands would follow. The initial demand was over £4million, however, that was later reduced to £1.9million.This reduction came as little comfort to the Chandlers. They and their family had no means to pay such a large sum of money and the British government flatly refused to negotiate with kidnappers.So this unfortunate couple has remained in the pirates hands for seven months now. Two more victims of a world that doesn’t care, they wait – for what? Freedom? Death? They don’t know.Video footage of them appeared earlier this year, showing an emaciated Rachel being examined by a doctor. The couple were being held separately and had only been reunited once or twice through their capture.It would be easy to forget the Chandlers. We’ve had a general election, the World Cup is just a couple of weeks away, the summer’s here and people have holidays booked. However, let us put aside modern society’s selfish values and spare a thought for this ordinary, decent British couple whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.We should pray for them, and we should keep reminding our government about them. Maybe that way we might get lucky and the Chandlers will become a success story rather than a statistic.
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Shane Clarke serves as London Correspondent for The Seoul Times. He has been involved in humanitarian work for numerous years. He’s also a freelance management consultant. Having completed an honors degree in Law at Wolverhampton University, he then moved on to an MBA at Warwick Business School. He’s heavily involved in the fight against international parental child abduction to Japan.
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