Stretford , Urmston , Trafford Photographer

Yacht Couple Ransom Poor Deal For Pirates

Freed British yacht couple Paul and Rachel Chandler have said they will be heading home soon, as it emerged a relatively small ransom may have been paid to their kidnappers.

After spending 388 days in the hands of Somali pirates, Mr and Mrs Chandler were whisked away to safety on Sunday and their journey home finally began.

This morning they released a statement through the Foreign Office thanking everyone for their “concern and interest”.

“We have just learned that Paul’s father died in late July, and we obviously need to come to terms with that,” they said.

“We will return to the UK very soon.”

Sky’s security editor Sam Kiley said a double ransom believed to be close to £200,000 was paid to the pirates despite their initial demand for more than £4m.

“Back in June, around £270,000 was paid and it either went missing or was considered to be not enough,” he said.

“The negotiations for the Chandlers’ release has been extremely messy but I’ve heard this latest payment is around £200,000.”

The British government has always maintained it has a strict policy of not paying any ransoms.

Kiley said: “Firstly there is no government support to do it in the first place and secondly, as the Chandlers are a couple, they had no insurance behind them.

“Normally this is a very big business. There are around 500 hostages in Somalia, more than 20 ships, and the going rate is around £2m, but they broke a record last week for £6m.”

He added: “This has been a very poor deal for the kidnappers, because the Chandlers had to be moved inland and were attracting a great deal of attention. In all, the kidnappers only got around £470,000.”

The Chandlers’ family refused to comment on how the couple’s freedom was negotiated, saying only that common sense had “finally prevailed”.

The official sum of the total ransom is not known, with some reports suggesting it could be as high as £620,000 – but still a small amount compared to usually lucrative deals.

The money is thought to have come from a mixture of private investors and the Somali government.

A rap video apparently helped raise £150,000 of the ransom money from the Somali community.

The Chandlers were handed over to the mayor of Adado – a central Somali town near the Ethiopian border – early on Sunday.

After being checked by a doctor the pair were taken to the Somali capital Mogadishu to meet the president of the transition government.

At a brief news conference before they flew on to Nairobi, the Chandlers appeared gaunt but relieved.

The pair, from Tunbridge Wells in Kent, revealed they were beaten by their captors after they refused to be separated.

Mr Chandler, 60, told reporters: “The worst time was when we had to abandon our home and boat … in the ocean.”

His wife, 57, added: “Another time that was very traumatic was when they decided to separate us.

“We were really distraught, we were very frightened at that point. We refused to be separated and we were beaten as a result.”

Sky’s Africa correspondent Emma Hurd said: “They are out of Somalia, a country where few places are truly secure, and are now in the hands of British officials in the Kenyan capital.”

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the pair had been through a “terrible ordeal” but maintained it was right for successive British governments not to make concessions to hostage takers.

The Prime Minister welcomed the “tremendous news” and said he was “grateful to all those who have worked so hard to bring the Chandlers out”.

The first footage of the Chandlers after their release showed the couple arriving at the heavily-guarded compound of the mayor of Adado.

Self-appointed mayor, Mohamed Aden – who is attempting to rid his area of piracy – spoke to Sky News to confirm the Chandlers were in good spirits.

But he confirmed they had endured “horrific treatment” and apologised to the couple for their ordeal.

Mr Aden also spoke of the help provided by the local community, which he said had helped raise money to secure the couple’s release.

The Chandlers were kidnapped in October 2009 when their yacht was hijacked off the idyllic shores of the Seychelles. They were held longer than any hostages in Somalia in recent memory.

In January, pictures showed the pair looking very thin and apparently in low spirits after being separated and kept in solitary confinement for days at a time.

They have both now had medical checks and are said to be in “relatively good health”.

The blog chronicling the journeys of their yacht – the Lynn Rival – remained frozen on an abrupt last entry posted in capital letters at 6:41 am on the day of their kidnapping: “PLEASE RING SARAH.”