British couple held by Somali pirates

Player utilities

Listen to the Story.

Audio Transcript:

KATY CLARK: We've been reminded in recent days that Somali pirates are still out there. The most recent victims taken hostage by the pirates are a British couple. Paul Chandler and his wife Sarah ran into trouble while sailing between the Seychelles and Tanzania. Paul Chandler told British network ITV about his plight last night.

PAUL CHANDLER: They kept asking for money and took everything of value on the boat.

CLARK: Now it's hard to understand him so we've asked The BBC's Will Ross to tell us the latest. Will is in Mombasa, Kenya covering the story. Will, what did Paul Chandler tell ITV news anyway?

WILL ROSS: He basically talked about the moment when the pirates came on board their 38 foot yacht. He said it happened about 2:30 in the morning while he was asleep. They then came on board and seized all of the valuable assets on board, kept asking for money, and then made them move the yacht, using its sails and at times using the motor, towards the Somali coast. What we understand is that the interview was done at a time when he was being held on a container ship off the Somali coast, so it seems he's been moved from that yacht, and in fact we know that the British Navy has actually picked up the empty yacht since then. But it has been a kind of long period of rumor, where we've had all these claims from the pirates that they're holding the Chandlers, but no real proof of where they were and what condition they were in.

CLARK: And I suppose we should mention, they went missing, I believe it was last Friday, correct?

ROSS: That's right. They set sail local time early on Thursday and within 24 hours, they'd sent out a distress signal, so that was Friday, middle of the night on Friday that the pirates came on board. But worth noting that these pirates really are after money. That's what drives them, so on the whole, it's fair to say that they look after their hostages pretty well, and then try and bargain to get as much ransom for them as possible.

CLARK: And I understand they're being held with some other hostages from previous pirate attacks, correct?

ROSS: That's right. We understand they were moved from the yacht onto a larger container ship. Now that could be for a number of reasons. One of them probably is they were fearing perhaps one of the military forces, the naval forces, anti-piracy forces in the Indian Ocean, may have tried to rescue the Chandlers and that might have been fairly straightforward. With a small yacht, they could have used say divers, frogmen and gone under the boat and come up, and that's happened in the past, with the French forces have tried that in the past. So by moving them onto this larger vessel, I think they feel that they're more secure there and they can be sort of better protected.

CLARK: In these kinds of situations, are there both government and private efforts underway to get the hostages released, or is this exclusively in the hands of the British government now?

ROSS: Well, it seems to be in the hands of the British government, although we don't know who as yet. We don't know who the pirates are talking to. They may put out calls to the relatives of the Chandlers and some of the other hostages to say, "Look, this is the money we want and you need to pay up in order to get your relatives back safely." Not clear if the British government are going to get directly involved. I mean, they take a policy of not paying ransom, but we know that in the past, all of the hostages who have been released from a wide variety of countries, they've all been released after some money has been paid.

CLARK: Will Ross has been covering the pirate story from Mombasa on the coast of Kenya. Will, thanks for speaking with us.

ROSS: It's a pleasure.