TAWI TAWI, Philippines — The report of two Germans kidnapped in Tawi Tawi, one reportedly killed by Abu Sayyaf bandits, has turned up their history of living dangerously in other parts of the world.
Jurgen Kantner and his wife Sabine Merz were both in the news in 2008 and 2009 when they were kidnapped from their sailboat in the pirate infested waters of Somalia.
Berbera residents called Kantner “the Mad German Sailor,” because a year after he was kidnapped from his sailboat, he returned to the scene to retrieve his vessel, which was still tied to the same marina between two Somaliland Navy ships.
On June 23, 2008, Kantner and his wife Sabine Merz were steering their modest sailboat through Somali waters when armed pirates captured them and brought them ashore to a mountain hideout.
After 52-days in captivity and horrific conditions involving mock executions, the pair were rescued after a ransom was paid by unknown officials.
At the time the region was considered one of the most dangerous in the world – today the pirates of Tawi Tawi mimic those of Somalia, only this time around Kantner and Merz made a fatal mistake, this time around Merz was killed after she supposedly pulled a gun on Abu Sayyaf bandits who attempted to kidnap them.
Kantner has led a strange life, so strange in fact that he returned to Somalia a year after being released from captivity to retrieve his beloved boat, leaving many to give him the nickname “the Mad German Sailor.”
Kantner was taking a break for some repair work in the region of Berbera, the main port in Somaliland, when his ‘mad man’ name was given.
In an interview at the time, Kentner told reporters that “They think that i’m insane, they call me the crazy white guy or the ‘mad German sailor’ but they don’t know how important my boat is to me.”
When asked about the hijacking at sea and their kidnapping lasting 52-days long, Kentner said “It was my worst experience ever. It was really painful and they were intimidating us the whole time.”
He went on to say “One day I said to them I hoped a plane would bomb us all to bits, so that we all die together.”
The couple were released in August of 2008 after authorities paid a $600,000 ransom – Kantner never disclosed where the ransom payment came from, to this day no information was ever released on where the large cash payout originated from.
At the time Kentner admitted living in his boat over 32-years, had no friends back home and told reporters that the German government despised him being anywhere near Somalia.
In the 2009 interview he admitted that sailing off the coast of Somalia was “a little bit like suicide,” though he appears to have sailed the world without issue for the past 7 years, this past week’s kidnapping in Tawi Tawi of the sailing couple has cost the life of another beloved thing of Kentner’s, his wife.