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Chandlers give evidence at inquiry


by Jess Banham

The Kent couple kidnapped by Somali pirates have criticised efforts by the Foreign Office to secure their release.

Paul and Rachel Chandler also told MPs the government didn't help their family enough after they were captured.

They spent more than a year in captivity after they were abducted near the Seychelles.

Paul Chandler says Foreign Office officials should have advised his family against speaking to the media.

He said: "It was well known at that stage that by far the best thing for hostages is a press blackout.

"If our family had been advised of that by the Foreign Office early on it would perhaps have had significant beneficial consequences."

Mrs Chandler confirmed the couple had no idea of the risk of sailing into the area - saying if she had known the area around the Seychelles was high risk for pirate attacks they wouldn't have gone there.

The Chandlers, from Tunbridge Wells, had been sailing near the idyllic shores of the Seychelles when they were captured but were released 13 months later in November 2010.

Questions have been raised about the money used to free Paul and Rachel.

The government has denied reports that the release was funded from a £6 million aid payment made to Somalia.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said at the time of their release: "The British government will continue to contribute to the anti piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean, to work diplomatically for a more peaceful situation in Somalia."

"Hostage taking is fundamentally wrong, and the government will never reward hostage taking."

The Foreign Affairs Select Committee is now looking at ways in which the Foreign Office may be able to improve their anti-piracy patrols in the future.

This is the last evidence session for the committee, which is hoping to submit a final report in December.

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