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Missing teen who wanted to sail solo is found in St. Maarten

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Police confirmed Sunday they have 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.

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

St. Maarten police spokesman Ricardo Henson confirmed that Dekker was on the island Sunday evening, and said efforts are under way to get her back to the Netherlands. He declined to provide further details.

The Child Protection Agency in the Netherlands could not immediately be reached for comment.

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.

NOS cited a family spokeswoman Mariska Woertman as saying that Laura left a letter for her father before disappearing. 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.

Dekker has joint Dutch and New Zealand citizenship because she was born on a yacht in New Zealand waters. She said she might try to go there if Dutch authorities refused to let her sail.

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.

Missing teen who wanted to sail solo is found in St. Maarten 12/20/09 [Last modified: Sunday, December 20, 2009 10:13pm]

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