British couple freed by Somali pirates return home

Paul and Rachel Chandler — the British couple held hostage by Somali pirates for 388 days — arrived home in the U.K. on Tuesday following their release from captivity.

The retired couple, who were released Sunday, appeared pale and tired as they landed at London's Heathrow Airport on a Virgin Atlantic flight from Kenya.

Both smiled, but did not make any comment as they dashed from the aircraft to a waiting car.

The couple have asked for privacy as they come to terms with their freedom, and after learning that Paul Chandler's father died in late July whilst they were held in captivity.

Pirates captured the Chandlers in October 2009 near the island nation of Seychelles as they sailed the world on their prized 38-foot-yacht.

British media reported that a ransom of up to a million dollars was paid to their kidnappers, partly funded by donations from Somalis living in the U.K. The country's Foreign Office insisted the U.K. government was not involved, as it has a policy to never pay ransom demands.

Relatives of the Chandlers declined to comment on questions about payments to the pirates, saying to do so might encourage the kidnapping of other people.

Somali pirates still hold close to 500 hostages, and more than 20 vessels, typically only releasing hostages for multimillion-dollar ransoms.

"It's hard to imagine what that family have been through," British Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday in a statement to the House of Commons.

The Chandlers met with the Somali prime minister in Mogadishu before they were transferred to Kenya where they were cared for by British embassy officials before their flight home.