Dutch Police: Young Sailor Laura Dekker Disappears

Published December 20, 2009

| Associated Press

A teenage Dutch sailor who made headlines when she went to court to fight for the right to sail solo around the world has disappeared, police said Sunday.

Laura Dekker's boat, Guppy, is still moored at its usual berth and the 14-year-old appears to have left her father's home on her own, Utrecht police spokesman Bernhard Jens told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

"We do not believe this is a crime," Jens said.

Utrecht District Court refused in October to let Dekker embark on her attempt to become the youngest person to sail alone around the world, and placed her under the supervision of child care authorities.

Jens said Dutch authorities have alerted neighboring countries to monitor airports.

"That happens with missing minors — if she is seen somewhere else or tries to leave via an airport or something like that, authorities know we are looking for her," he said.

Dekker has joint Dutch and New Zealand citizenship because she was born on a yacht in New Zealand waters. She said earlier this year she might try to go there if Dutch authorities refused to let her sail.

Jens would not comment on a report in Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant that Dekker withdrew $5,000 from her bank account a few days ago.

"We are doing everything we can to make sure we can get her back," Jens said. "We are certainly concerned about her health — we are talking about an underage girl."

Dekker's spokeswoman Mariska Woertman did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

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