Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Search for body of British yachtsman stepped up off South Thailand as family mourn


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From Andrew Drummond, Satun, Thailand


A massive air and sea research was stepped up today off south
Thailand to find the body of Briton Malcolm Robertson, whose yacht was
attacked by 'amateur pirates' earlier this week.


As three Burmese migrant workers, were arraigned in court on charges of
kidnap and theft, a special task flotilla of three Thai Navy and Marine
Police launches, and a spotter plane, was joined by two more spotter
planes and two helicopters.
Local fishermen and 'yachties' were also called in to help.


British Embassy officials had met with high ranking officials of Thailand's Third Fleet in an urge to step up the search.
Police in Satun said they would technically have a problem pressing
charges of murder without a body, even though they claimed they had full
confessions.


Survivor Linda Robertson, 57, from St Leonard's East Sussex, had an
emotional re-union hugging iwth her two sons, Darren and BenTrevitt, 37,
and 35, and Dean and Tara Robertson, 34, and 38, her husband's children
from a previous marriage.


Wearing a pastel orange top and white slacks she said she realised the
three young men who boarded her boat and killed Mr. Robertson were 'not
professional' pirates, and she paid tribute to her 'wonderful and
caring' 64-yr-old husband,
'I know in my heart he was just trying to protect me. He dearly loved
his children and grandchildren, who called him 'Mr. Fixit' and he was
fulfilling his life's dream to retire at 50 and sail the world.


'We had completed most of the trip. Next year we planned to sail back to the Mediterranean and home.'
'When we were boarded, I knew Malcolm must have felt he had to get these
people off the boat and that might have been a mistake'.


She spoke both of the brutality of her captors and the gentleness of the youngest won, an 18-yr-old Burmese known as 'Ko'.
  'I was tied so strongly that I was almost passing out. At one point
they loosened the ropes, and the young Burmese man started stroking and
massaging my feet.'


The action contrasted strongly with their earlier action when they
boarded the boat when it was moored off the Buntang Island near Malaysia
early on Tuesday morning.


Earlier she described how they had entered her husband's cabin and she
could hear him shouting 'Get off my boat'. She heard a scuffle and never
saw her husband again. But she had to stand in his blood as she
followed the 'pirates' orders, allowing the boat to sail eight miles due
north to Satun.


Most of the time however she claimed she was 'tied up naked like a trussed chicken'.


She made her escape when the Burmese got into the yacht's dinghy,
flinging off the ropes, weighing anchor, and putting the boat into full
throttle.


'They were not professional pirates. They would have not left in a
dinghy with a laptop, credit cards, and the murder weapons,'    Police
in Satun have displayed a Bowie knife and a hammer.


'I do not want to blame the Thai people. I want to thank their police,
and navy, and our Embassy officials for their help, and of course fellow
yachties who have been tremendous,' she said.


Police Captain Suparak Pongkarnjana said the pirates, Ek, 17, Ao, 19 and
Ko, 20, had been working on a trawler moored near the Robertsons'
yacht, and they were desperate to get ashore after months of being
forced by a Thai captain to work at sea with no pay.


'They jumped overboard and initially just wanted to steal the yacht's
dinghy to make their escape to the shore. But they say they were hungry
and penniless and decided to steal as well'.


David Jesinger who together with his wife Di, accompanied the
Robertson's through the Panama Canal said: 'When the Burmese boarded
'Mr.Brain' they must have been ravenously hungry. They went through
everything edible on board.'


The Thai authorities are seeking a quick trial for the three men to
bring closure on the case. They will be arraigned again tomorrow, but
the youngest will have to be tried in a juvenile court. The prosecutor
is will call for the death penalty, but if the plead guilty, it would be
commuted to life.



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