Thursday, March 26, 2009

Murdered sailor's wife tells of pirate hammer attack

Linda Robertson

Linda Robertson was locked away while pirates bludgeoned her husband Malcolm to death with hammers

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A British woman told yesterday how she was tied up naked in the cabin of her yacht by pirates who slit her husband’s throat and threw him overboard.

Linda Robertson also recalled the moment she stood in her husband’s blood as she tried to start the engine and make her escape after the pirates fled the boat.

Three men boarded the yacht sailed by Mrs Robertson and her husband Malcolm in the Andaman Sea near the Thai-Malaysian border.

They overpowered the couple, locking Mrs Robertson away while they bludgeoned her husband to death with hammers, slit his throat and dumped his body in the sea. The body had not been recovered last night.

Mrs Robertson, 57, described how she spent up to ten hours tied up naked in the cabin of the 13.5m (44ft) yacht, named Mr Bean, while a man with a machete stood guard over her.

Speaking from her hospital bed in Satun in southern Thailand, Mrs Robertson said: “I heard the sound of people clambering aboard. I was naked. It was a very hot night.

“Three young men came in. They were holding hammers and they pushed me back and tied and gagged me. Then they went towards the forward cabin and I heard my husband shouting, ‘Get off my boat’.

“I heard a scuffle and did not hear any more. They came back to me and made signs to me to start the engine, which I did.

“There was no sign of my husband. I waited and listened and I think this was the first time I realised he might be dead. The night was pitch black and the boat headed north. They put me back in my cabin all trussed up.”

She added: “My hands and feet were swelling because I was trussed up naked like a chicken.

“It was all very degrading. I could not cover anything up. But if you think you are going to die all such matters become secondary.”

It was only at daybreak that the three men tried to make their getaway on a motorised dinghy with their haul of computers, mobile phones and electronic equipment from the yacht.

As they fled, the dinghy’s engine cut out, but before the pirates could make their way back to the boat Mrs Robertson was able to pull up the anchor, start the yacht’s engine and escape.From the amount of blood on the deck, police believe that Mr Robertson had his throat cut, as well as being attacked with hammers.

“I knew because I was walking in his blood,” Mrs Robertson said. “I cannot believe I survived.”

Police in Thailand have arrested three Burmese migrant workers who have allegedly confessed to killing Mr Robertson.

John Clee, Mrs Robertson’s brother, said yesterday: “They haven’t found a body yet. That is our greatest fear — that they do not find his body. We have our fingers crossed.”

He said he had heard from his sister. “They’ve asked her to go back to the boat,” he said. “She’s going to do that today as she’d rather get it out the way before her children arrive.”

Three of Mrs Robertson’s four children are to fly to Thailand to join their mother, who was discharged from hospital yesterday after being treated for minor injuries.

Mr Robertson owned a chain of coffee shops near Hastings in East Sussex, but was semi-retired after passing the business on to his children. The couple had been married for 25 years, and each had two children from previous relationships.

Mr and Mrs Robertson were both qualified yacht masters, and were spending the winter months sailing around warmer waters when their boat was seized by pirates near the island of Koh Dong, 45 miles off the Thai coast.

Police Captain Suparak Pongkarnjana said the pirates, identified as Ek, 18, Ao, 19 and Ko, 20, had been working on a trawler moored near the Robertsons’ yacht off Koh Dong, and they were desperate to get ashore after months of being forced to work at sea. They tried to flee when they saw a Thai national park boat pass near by.

The three young men were mobbed by angry Thai tourist operators when they were taken to La-Ngu police station, and Thai police said yesterday that they would ask the prosecutor to call for the death penalty for all three.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “A British couple were attacked while sailing off the coast of Satun, southern Thailand.

“Our consular team in Bangkok are in touch with the next of kin and are providing consular assistance to those involved. We are urgently pursuing this case with local police, who are investigating the incident. We understand that the Thai police have arrested three suspects.”

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