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Freed British couple returning to Britain

By the CNN Wire Staff
Released British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler outside the British Embassy residence in Nairobi on November 14, 2010.
Released British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler outside the British Embassy residence in Nairobi on November 14, 2010.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Chandlers left Kenya on Tuesday
  • They were held more than a year by pirates
  • They asked for privacy once they return home

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) -- British couple Paul and Rachel Chandler, released over the weekend after being held by pirates for more than a year, departed Kenya on Tuesday for the United Kingdom.

Their convoy drove to a Virgin Atlantic plane that took off from the Nairobi airport just before 1 p.m. (5 a.m. ET).

The Chandlers issued a brief statement Monday saying they planned to return to the United Kingdom but had no plans to give any press interviews or further statements until they have time to adjust to the situation.

They learned after their release that Paul Chandler's father died in July, while they were still held captive.

The couple were sailing on their yacht from the Seychelles Islands to Tanzania in October 2009 when they were captured.

They were released over the weekend after a ransom of about $750,000 was paid, according to local elders in Somalia, who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

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It was unclear who paid the ransom, but a local elder told CNN the Somali diaspora in England played a key role in raising the funds.

The British government said last year it refused to pay a ransom or negotiate with pirates, saying doing so would only encourage more kidnappings.

The couple landed in Kenya late Sunday afternoon, said Abdurraham Omar Osman, a Somali government spokesman. They then spent time at the British High Commission before stepping on the flight Tuesday.

The couple was "in good spirits although very tired and exhausted," the family statement said. It said they would have medical checks in Nairobi before returning to Britain.

"We cannot yet be certain how the difficulties that they have had to endure in recent months will have affected them physically and emotionally," the family statement said. It asked that the couple be allowed time to readjust as they return to their family and friends.

British Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the couple's release as "tremendous news."

CNN's David McKenzie contributed to this report.

 
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