Relief in Kent at release of Paul and Rachel Chandler

Image caption,
Jacqueline Charlton said she had thought about the Chandlers every day

Neighbours of the British couple held hostage by Somali pirates have expressed relief that their friends' "horrendous ordeal" is over.

Paul Chandler, 60, and Rachel Chandler, 56, from Tunbridge Wells, Kent, were kidnapped while sailing in the Indian Ocean in October 2009.

Friends Jacqueline and Dennis Charlton said the couple were "tough cookies".

MP for Tunbridge Wells Greg Clark said news of their release had been received with "great joy" in the town.

Mrs Charlton said: "It's something we think about every day, that we talk about every day, and now all of a sudden it's changed.

Pirate attacks

"It hasn't really sunk in yet. We can stop wondering now.

"The main thing is they are home. Your mind boggles at what they've been through.

"It's been such a long time. They've been given a punishment worse than most criminals.

"We'll be very happy to see them back."

The Chandlers were captured while sailing from the Seychelles towards Tanzania.

Their route took them near Somali waters notorious for pirate attacks on ships and smaller boats.

Earlier this year their captors threatened to kill the couple if their demands for $7m (£4.4m) were not met

'Great joy'

Image caption,
The couple were seized while sailing from the Seychelles

Mr Charlton added: "You wonder how they will settle back again after the horrendous ordeal they have been through."

Mr Clark said the crowd at a Remembrance Day service cheered when news broke of the Chandlers' release.

He said: "It's a very strong community in Tunbridge Wells and the Chandlers were well respected in the community.

"The most difficult thing has been the lack of information, but there has been great joy across Tunbridge Wells."

The Reverend Bob Street, of the United Reformed Church in Tunbridge Wells, said: "We have been waiting so long for this.

"We had a day of prayer and fasting back in February and we have been praying for them ever since."

In a statement, relatives of the Chandlers said: "The videos that were shown on television earlier this year indicated that they were coping with the conditions and were in relatively good health.

"But we cannot yet be certain how the difficulties that they have had to endure in recent months will have affected them physically and emotionally."

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