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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Freed hostages 'in high spirits'

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Rachel Chandler and husband Paul arrive back in the UK after being freed by Somali pirates

Paul and Rachel Chandler are resting away from the public gaze as they enjoy their first full day of freedom on UK soil following their year-long hostage nightmare.

The retired couple touched down at Heathrow Airport on Tuesday, before walking down the steps of the plane with beaming smiles on their faces.

Their return to Britain brought to an end a 388-day ordeal which began in October 2009 when their yacht was seized by armed Somali pirates as it sailed from the Seychelles towards Tanzania.

The couple, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, landed at Heathrow at 6.44pm on Tuesday night, on board Virgin Atlantic flight VS672 from Nairobi.

Mr and Mrs Chandler, aged 60 and 57 respectively, left the plane separately from other passengers. They smiled as they disembarked and met waiting airport officials on the tarmac. They were then taken to a private location to be reunited with friends and family and debriefed by officials.

Family spokesman Pat Adamson said: “They were very weary and tired as any of us would be having been put in their position, but their spirits are high.

“I imagine they’ll be looked after by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for the next 24 to 48 hours, for a debrief, to make sure they are OK and to rest away from the public gaze. What happens after that is up to them.”

In the coming days the couple are expected to hold talks with media advisers and discuss interview deals. It is believed some of the money earned will be used to help pay back the ransom reportedly given to the pirates to secure their release.

Publicist Max Clifford said the Chandlers could earn up to £5 million from publicising their ordeal.

He said: “In terms of immediate media such as newspapers, magazines and a TV documentary, you are talking about £1 million. If you add in book and film deals then that could push up how much they earn by another £4 million.”

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