Sunday, December 20, 2009

Teen Sailor Who Ran Away Found in Caribbean

World Teen Sailor Who Ran Away Found in Caribbean

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (Dec. 20) —
Police tracked down 14-year-old Dutch
sailor Laura Dekker in the Caribbean
territory of St. Maarten, days after she ran
away from home leaving her boat behind,
Dutch media reported late Sunday.

Dekker made headlines around the world
earlier this year when she unsuccessfully
went to court as a 13-year-old to fight for
the right to set off on a single-handed
circumnavigation of the world in her boat,
Guppy.

National broadcaster NOS and
newspaper De Volkskrant reported that
St. Maarten police tracked down Dekker
on Sunday after news of her
disappearance broke and she was
expected to be flown home soon. They
cited police on St. Maarten and the Dutch
Child Protection Agency.

Bart Muhl, AP

Laura Dekker, 14, went missing on
Friday. Here, she speaks to the media in
August.

Police and the Child Protection Agency in
the Netherlands could not immediately be
reached for comment late Sunday.
St. Maarten is part of the Netherlands
Antilles, a group of self-governing
Caribbean islands that are part of the
Dutch kingdom.

Earlier Sunday, Utrecht police spokesman
Bernhard Jens said Dutch authorities
issued an international alert after Dekker
was reported missing Friday.
Jens said Dekker’s boat Guppy, was still
moored at its usual berth.
“We do not believe this is a crime,” Jens
said.

Jens would not comment on a report in
Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant that
Dekker withdrew euro3,500 ($5,000) from
her bank account a few days ago.
NOS cited a family spokeswoman as
saying that Laura left a letter for her father
before disappearing. It did not say what
was in the letter.

The spokeswoman, Mariska Woertman,
did not return calls seeking comment.
In October, Utrecht District Court refused
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

2
until next July, meaning she could not
leave the country without their
permission.

Jens said Dutch authorities had 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.
“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.”

After the October court ruling Woertman
said Dekker remained confident she
would be ready to sail next July and
would still be able to set the record as the
youngest sailor to circumnavigate the
globe.

The Utrecht court first blocked her
departure in August out of concern for her
safety. The decision sparked a worldwide
debate on how much authorities and
parents should limit children’s freedom to
undertake risky adventures.
Laura’s parents, both veteran sailors, are
separated. Laura’s father supported the
attempt, but her mother said in a
newspaper interview in September she
thought Laura was too young.

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