Page last updated at 12:14 GMT, Thursday, 29 October 2009

'Kidnapped' pair's yacht is found

Lynn Rival
The couple's yacht, the Lynn Rival, was found in international waters

The yacht belonging to a British couple feared kidnapped by Somali pirates has been found empty.

Paul and Rachel Chandler, aged 59 and 55, of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, sent a distress signal on Friday from the Indian Ocean.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the yacht was discovered during counter-piracy operations on Wednesday night - but the couple were not on board.

The MoD stressed there is no reason to suspect the pair have come to harm.

The yacht, the Lynn Rival, which was found in international waters, had been secured by the Royal Navy and was being escorted to shore.

'Peaceful solution'

Mr and Mrs Chandler had been sailing from the Seychelles to Tanzania.

An MoD spokesman said: "During counter-piracy operations overnight, a Royal Navy ship encountered the yacht owned by Paul and Rachel Chandler.

Rachel and Paul Chandler
The couple were travelling from the Seychelles to Tanzania

"Paul and Rachel Chandler were not on board the yacht and we do not have any reason to believe they have been harmed.

"Royal Naval vessels operating with our international partners under EU, Nato and combined maritime forces will continue to play a full role in efforts to secure Paul and Rachel's release."

Relatives of the Chandlers met the Somali premier Omar Sharmarke in London on Wednesday who told them he would do anything to "see a peaceful solution".

Mrs Chandler's brother, Stephen Collett, 58, of Ixworth, Suffolk, said: "He [Mr Sharmarke] told us they [pirates] do look after hostages well as they see them as trade goods and want to keep them so they can barter.

"Unfortunately they have no money, it's all in the yacht."

Dr James Alvarez, who is a hostage negotiator, said it was unlikely the couple would be harmed, but because they were white the kidnappers would think they were rich and expect to get money for them.

The Somali government - which only has nominal authority in large parts of the country - said it was doing everything possible to locate them.

Seychelles map
Paul and Rachel Chandler were on a 150 nautical-mile passage south-west to the Amirante Islands

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