Rachel Chandler's brother criticises UK authorities over kidnap

Stephen Collett
Image caption Stephen Collett spoke for almost a year with Somali pirates who had kidnapped his sister to negotiate her release

The brother of a Kent woman kidnapped with her husband by Somali pirates has criticised the support the family received from UK authorities.

Stephen Collett said he was given contradictory advice as he negotiated for almost a year to secure the release of Paul and Rachel Chandler.

The Chandlers, formerly from Tunbridge Wells, were released when Mr Collett paid a ransom of about £300,000.

The Foreign Office said: "A dedicated team... did everything they could."

The Chandler's ordeal began when their yacht was seized in October 2009.

Almost every morning for a year Mr Collett, who lives in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, spoke to the men who held his sister hostage.

"When I first started talking to them I found it very difficult and I would sometimes be in tears at the end of it," he said

During negotiations with the Somali pirates Mr Collett said he had felt out of his depth.

"The Metropolitan Police come in and give you some advice, they make suggestions as to things to say and how to act, but all the time with the Met it's if there's any money mentioned then they pull out and you are on your own."

Emergency committee

For the first three months, Mr Collett said he tried to avoid any mention of money however, at the same time he said the Metropolian Police had always advised him that he was not going to get out of this without paying a ransom.

Image caption Paul and Rachel Chandler sold their story to pay some of the ransom back to the family

Together with his siblings and Paul Chandler's sister, Mr Collett set up an emergency committee when they realised the only way to get the couple home was to pay.

The family paid $440,000 in ransom which, at the time, was about £300,000 and the couple were released on 14 November 2010.

Mr Collett said the Foreign Office moved too slowly and did not support the family.

In a statement the Foreign Office said: "A dedicated team... did everything they could to secure the couple's safe release.

"We used our contacts to gain information which we shared with the family."

The Chandlers have paid some of the ransom money back to the family after they sold their story.

Mr Collett said he was not asking them to pay the full amount, he was just glad that they were safely home.

"Several times they threatened to kill them, you have to remind them every time they do that because if a hostage is dead they've got nothing to bargain with," he said.

Paul and Rachel Chandler now live in Dartmouth, Devon and are currently refitting their boat and planning to go off sailing again to finish the trip they started.

The Metropolitan Police did not want to comment.

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