Pirate hostages fear they will be killed in days

Couple plead for £4m ransom money to be paid in new video broadcast
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The Independent Online

Fears are intensifying for the plight of the British couple captured by pirates in the Indian Ocean in October, after a new video aired yesterday showed the pair surrounded by gunmen and desperately urging the British Government to negotiate a ransom.

Paul and Rachel Chandler, from Tunbridge Wells in Kent, were filmed on Wednesday by a Channel 4 News camera crew; the two-minute video was broadcast yesterday evening.

Talking directly to the camera and standing in front of numerous gunmen brandishing loaded weapons, the pair made a direct appeal to the British Government. Mr Chandler, 59, says: "The kidnappers are losing patience; they are concerned that there has been no response at all to their demands for money." He urges the government to open negotiations over a possible ransom payment, adding: "I have no doubt that they will not hesitate to kill us perhaps between a week or so of now if there is no response."

While the pair looked tired and stressed, the video did not appear to support claims made by their captors last week that the pair had incurred "serious health problems".

Diplomats in Nairobi told The Independent that while the video was distressing to watch, it was also likely to have been heavily scripted, in a move deliberately designed to intensify fear as well as signal frustration at the pace of negotiations.

The Chandlers, both retired professionals, were kidnapped in the early hours of 23 October when armed men stormed their yacht, the Lynn Rival, as it sailed from the Seychelles towards Tanzania. Their captors are continuing to demand a $7m (£4.2m) ransom, which the government has so far refused to pay. In the UK, a spokeswoman said the Foreign Office was aware of the video but that "substantive concessions" would not be made to hostage-takers.

In the video, Mr Chandler says: "This is our 27th day in captivity. So far we have been provided with adequate food and water and facilities, and so we are unharmed and in reasonable physical health. Mentally we under great stress, and threatened. Our kidnappers are losing patience."

He adds: "We ask the government and the people of Britain, and our families, to do whatever you can to at least open negotiations with these people about money, so perhaps our lives can be brought back.

"We have been threatened that there is a terrorist gang at large in the country looking for us. We are also concerned that these people will lose patience and will not feed us.

"And I have no doubt that they will not hesitate to kill us in a week or so from now if there is no response. So, please somebody get in touch otherwise we just sleep-walk to a tragic ending." Mrs Chandler, 55, is also asked to speak, against the sound of guns being cocked and loaded. "We are under threat and we are told that we will not be fed and given water, so we are very concerned about the future," she said.

Since the kidnapping, a month ago tomorrow, the Government has stood by its line of not making concessions to hostage-takers. A spokesman for the pirates has previously said that the ransom, a "little amount", would compensate for the seizures made by international anti-piracy patrols.