Pirates may kill us within days, say yacht pair

Emotional phone call tells of despair as British couple warn time is running out
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The British couple hijacked from their yacht by pirates off the African coast have been told at least one of them will be executed within the next few days unless a ransom is paid.

Rachel and Paul Chandler were seized three months ago and have been split up by their captors but each was allowed a phone call yesterday in which they warned time was running out to save them. Mrs Chandler was pessimistic about their chances of survival and said she was desperate for a last chance to see her husband again "before we die".

She said in an emotional phone call to ITN News: "They've just told me that if they don't get the money within four or five days, they'll kill one of us. My biggest hope is that I shall see him [Paul] at least once more before we die. It's hard not to feel... well... dying would actually be an easy way out. It's hard to explain but when you're all on your own in this country and you've no idea where you are and no idea when something might happen and whether I'll see Paul again, it's just very, very despairing."

She described how she had been attacked by her captors: "I've broken a tooth because I was hit on the head with something, probably the butt of a gun... so we have been physically attacked." Her comments echoed those by her husband earlier in the day when he said: "They've lost patience. They've set a deadline of three or four days. If they don't hear then, they say they will let us die. I'm afraid that they will just kill us and abandon us in the desert here."

The couple were forcibly parted by the pirates who wanted to hold them in separate hideaways to make it harder for a rescue to be carried out. "We tried to stay together and they threw us to the ground and whipped us, and beat Rachel with the rifle butts," said Mr Chandler. "I was allowed to telephone her about 12 days ago. She said she was being tormented all the time and she said she was giving up.

They were seized on 23 October as they sailed from the Seychelles towards Tanzania and were taken to Somalia where pirates have been able to act almost with impunity in recent years.

A Royal Navy vessel, the Wave Knight, was on the scene as the pirates made their escape with the couple on but the sailors and Royal marines on board held their fire for fear of killing the Chandlers. A ransom of £4.3m was originally demanded for the release of the retired couple, from Tunbridge Wells in Kent, but is now thought to be considerably lower – one report suggested about £60,000 would be enough.

A Foreign Office spokesman said yesterday that the situation is being monitored closely. The Ministry of Defence repeated its insistence that for the Wave Knight to have opened fire would have risked the couple's lives.