Page last updated at 23:55 GMT, Sunday, 20 December 2009

Missing girl sailor Laura Dekker found safe in Antilles

Laura Dekker in court, 24 August 2009
Laura Dekker began sailing solo when she was 10 years old

A Dutch teenager barred from sailing solo around the world because of her age has been found on a Caribbean island after disappearing, police say.

Laura Dekker, 14, is in police custody on the Dutch Antilles island of St Maarten, three days after relatives in the Netherlands reported her missing.

A Dutch police spokesman said the girl had been found "safe and sound".

Miss Dekker has been under supervision since a court blocked her bid to be the youngest person to sail the globe solo.

When did she leave the Netherlands? Why? How did she get to St Maarten? Did somebody help her and was she alone?
Bernhard Jens
police spokesman

Police said earlier they did not suspect any crime had been committed.

The court order in the city of Utrecht placed Miss Dekker under state supervision, while living with her father, until the end of her school year in July 2010.

After she vanished on Friday, her boat was found moored at its berth and she appears to have left her father's home on her own.

An unconfirmed Dutch newspaper report said she had withdrawn 3,500 euros ($5,000) from her bank account.


Utrecht police spokesman Bernhard Jens said the girl had been recognised by a woman living on the island who had been alerted to her disappearance by media coverage.

BBC map

"We have lots more questions," he told AFP news agency.

"When did she leave the Netherlands? Why? How did she get to St Maarten? Did somebody help her and was she alone?"

At the time of the much-publicised court ruling in October, Miss Dekker's spokeswoman said she was disappointed but that the teenager could still set the record if she were to sail next year.

Miss Dekker is a seasoned sailor who was born on a yacht off the coast of New Zealand during a seven-year world trip.

She had a yacht by the age of six and began sailing solo when she was 10.

Her father, Dick Dekker, supports her attempt at the record, while her mother has expressed some concerns.

Miss Dekker had planned to spend about two years aboard her 8m (26ft) boat, Guppy, to break the record set in August by a 17-year-old UK boy.

Mike Perham tackled 50ft waves, gale force winds and technical problems during the 45,000-km (28,000-mile) circumnavigation, which took him nine months.

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