THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Authorities tried to piece together Monday how 14-year-old Dutch sailor Laura Dekker managed to slip out of the Netherlands and fly to the Caribbean, and whether anybody helped her flee.
Dekker, who lost a court battle in October for the right to set off on a risky solo around-the-world trip, was discovered Sunday in the Dutch island territory of St. Maarten, three days after her mother reported her missing.
It was unclear if she knew anybody on the island, half of which is part of the Netherlands Antilles, or whether she had any plans to use it as a start point for a sailing voyage. Unconfirmed news reports said she left home with about euro3,500 ($5,000) in cash.
Dekker's 26-foot (8-meter) yacht, Guppy, which she planned to use for her circumnavigation, remained moored at its usual harbor in the central Netherlands.
Police plan to interview Dekker when she returns to the Netherlands. Jens said he expected her to come back on a flight arriving early Tuesday.
"We have a number of questions for her," police spokesman Bernhard Jens said, including "How did this happen? Why did you go? How did you go? Did you go with somebody else?"
Dekker's family has similar questions, spokeswoman Mariska Woertman told The Associated Press.
Having spoken briefly with Dekker on Sunday, Woertman said Dekker was doing well "under the circumstances," but that "we haven't had any time to talk yet about the reasons why — what exactly has been going on over the past few days or weeks. We just have to wait until she is back home and speak to her about that."
Dekker's planned trip would have made her the youngest person to embark solo around the world, but judges ruled she was too inexperienced and ill-prepared to set sail.
That decision took a heavy toll on Dekker and could explain her decision to run away from home. The court also appointed a temporary guardian for Dekker, though it allowed her to keep living with her divorced father, also a keen sailor and seen as a driving force behind her plan. The court wanted to ensure he could not allow her to set off without first consulting child care authorities.
Dekker's mother has remained largely out of the picture, but said in a newspaper interview she considered her daughter too young to make the round-the-world trip.
"We think we know the reason," said Joost Lanshage of Bureau Youth Care, which appointed her temporary court-ordered guardian. "She had a dream and it fell apart — that round-the-world trip. In the end she collapsed under the weight of the attention that generated and the dream being shattered. She is looking for some order."
The Utrecht District Court had banned the trip until at least July 2010, but Dekker worried she wouldn't be allowed to set sail then either, even as she continued preparations, Woertman said.
"She felt pressured about the whole situation and everybody that wanted something from her," Woertman said. "She didn't feel that confident any more that one day she could really sail away."
Jens said police would decide whether to speak to anybody else based on what Dekker tells them when she returns home.
What happens after that and whether Dekker is allowed to remain living with her father has yet to be decided. A court spokesman said any decision was up to her temporary guardian, with whom her father must consult about any important decisions in Dekker's life.
Lanshage said his organization spoke to both Dekker and her father last week before she fled, but declined to give details, citing privacy rules.
It is possible Dekker could be taken into state care, said Richard Bakker, a spokesman for the government's Child Protection Agency.
Woertman would not speculate on what might ultimately happen to Dekker or what her unannounced trip might mean for her trip plans.
"We hope we will be able to make things clear for her in her head and her heart," she said. "It has all been very emotional for her."