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Dutch teen who sought solo sailing trip disappears

Laura Dekker, the 14-year-old Dutch girl whose bid to sail solo around the world was blocked by a court, has gone missing, leaving behind her boat, police said Sunday.

Dekker appears to have left her father's home on her own, Utrecht police spokesman Bernhard Jens told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. Her boat, Guppy, is 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.

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

Jens said Dutch authorities have 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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Posted in: News by SoulRiser on December 25, 2009 @ 8:07 PM

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