Caged like animals


No one yet knows the fate awaiting Bruno Pelizzari and Deborah Calitz. They were kidnapped early this month from the yacht they and skipper Peter Eldridge were sailing from Tanzania to Richard’s Bay and they’re among about 500 people Somali pirates are holding in dreadful circumstances.

Meanwhile the newly freed Chandlers are picking up the pieces of their lives.

Their nightmare began on a dark night at sea on 23 October 2009. Paul and Rachel were on the way from the Seychelles to Tanzania when pirates intercepted them. They were taken to Harardhere, a pirates’ hide-out base in Somalia.

The pirates initially estimated their hostages to be worth R54 million and were astonished when the family told them Paul and Rachel were a retired couple on an adventure in their small private yacht, not members of a giant international organisation that would cough up vast sums of money.

The Chandlers didn’t have the money and the British government refused to help.

The Chandler family began raising money and friends, relatives and strangers – including in Somalia – made small contributions, while they continued negotiating with the pirates who by then realised they would never get their original R54 million ransom demand. How much would they come down to? How much cash could the Chandlers raise?

Two weeks ago there was a breakthrough: it was agreed an amount of R2,2 million would finally put an end to the hostage drama.

Paul and Rachel were released on the morning of 14 November and taken to a place of safety in the town of Adado where Mohamed Aden, a Somali government official, welcomed them.

“We’re grateful to be alive,” a relaxed Rachel said. “Now we’re just desperate to see our family but we’re grateful to finally be back among normal, good people. We spent over a year among criminals and it wasn’t very nice.”

Their families’ love and the knowledge that they shared the couple’s suffering gave Paul and Rachel the courage to hold on.

Get the full story in YOU, 25 November 2010.

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