MOGADISHU, Somalia – Paul and Rachel Chandler, a retired British couple who sailed to exotic locales aboard their 38-foot yacht, said in one of their last cheery messages they would likely be “out of touch for some time.”
After disappearing for a week, a somber Paul Chandler is back in contact, saying by telephone Thursday that he and his wife are being held captive by gun-toting pirates who stripped their vessel of everything of value.
Paul Chandler told Britain’s ITV News in a phone call that he and his wife were being held aboard a container ship anchored a mile from the Somali coast. They apparently had been briefly taken ashore.
At a European Union summit in Brussels, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown appealed for the couple’s release. Foreign Secretary David Miliband pledged that Britain would use “all the mechanisms at our disposal” to secure their safe return.
Chandler told ITV the pirates crept aboard at night while he was asleep.
“They kept asking for money and took everything of value on the boat,” Chandler, 59, said before the phone connection broke off.
The British navy found the yacht – empty – in international waters earlier Thursday. Warships had been searching for the Lynn Rival since it sent out a distress signal Oct. 23.
Chandler later told the BBC in a telephone interview that he is being treated well by his captors.
“We are well and being looked after OK,” Chandler said. “Food is OK.” He did not appear to be able to speak freely.
A pirate spokesman said the bandits will negotiate a ransom for the couple. The British government does not make or facilitate “substantive concessions” to hijackers, including ransom payments, the British Foreign Office said.
Paul Chandler’s sister, Jill Marshment, pleaded for the Chandlers’ release and said they weren’t wealthy. Even with only two aboard, the couple described the Lynn Rival as cramped. It is powered mostly by sails and has a small outboard engine.