My mom snatched by pirates


Sam de Jesus presses her fingers to the corners of her eyes to stop the tears that have suddenly started flowing.

It has been 130 days since her loved ones were captured by the Somali pirates who overpowered them on their yacht off the Mozambican coast on 25 October last year. Since then there’s been no word or sign of them – Sam’s mother, Debbie Calitz (44), and her partner, Bruno Pelizzari (52).

Sam, a Pretoria travel agent, swallows hard and takes a deep breath.

“I’ve marked off every day on my calendar since we heard they’d been captured,” she says, shaking her head. “But now I feel a bit numb, almost emotionally paralysed.”

“You force yourself to focus on just the hard facts because you can’t feel stressed and cry and be afraid every day for five months.”

The uncertainty is taking its toll on both hostages’ families.

“We support each other, my mom and Bruno’s families, but every now and then we argue because the tension builds and there’s no escape valve.”

They’ve heard nothing from Debbie or Bruno since South African authorities informed them about what had happened on 1 November. The couple are two of about 800 sailors to have been taken hostage by notorious Somali pirates who are after ransom money.

Six years ago Debbie and Bruno sold all their possessions and used the money to restore a yacht on which to explore the African coastline.

In October they set off for Richards Bay from Tanzania with South African Peter Eldridge on his yacht Choizil. Pirates in two motorboats swooped on them while they were sailing between Tanzania and Mozambique.

“We think the whole thing was a misunderstanding,” Sam says. “The pirates apparently thought my mom and Bruno were rich Europeans. We just hope they realise that now and let my mother and Bruno go.”

She refuses to think about an unhappy ending to the situation.

“I’m not worried they’ll be harmed,” she says, drawing comfort from the fact that Somali pirates don’t usually hurt or kill their hostages.

Her biggest concern is the fighting between the various pirate gangs who apparently try to seize one another’s prisoners for the ransom they could get. And she fears for the couple’s health. Her mother suffers from asthma and sometimes needs medication.

- Debbie and Bruno’s families are relying on fundraising to collect as much money as possible for the ransom. Read the full article in YOU, 17 March 2011.

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