Friday, March 27, 2009

Yacht Piracy: 'I had to walk through my husband's blood'

SHE didn't see her husband murdered.

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CAUGHT AND CUFFED: Two of the three Burmese pirates caught by Thai marine policePICTURE: REUTERS

All she could hear was his furious yelling, then a chilling silence as three Myanmar pirates boarded her yacht off Thailand's Buntang Islands, near Malaysia.

It was then that Mrs Linda Robertson knew that Malcolm, her husband of 24 years, was dead.

And that her ordeal was just beginning.

For 10 years, the couple had sailed around the world, returning to the UK to see their families every summer.

Their blog spoke of anchoring off idyllic beaches, swimming with manta rays, enjoying champagne breakfasts and barbecues on deck, and watching sunsets with a glass of wine in hand.

On Tuesday, the adventure turned into horror as the pirates slit Mr Roberston's throat and threw him overboard. They took over the yacht and held Mrs Robertson captive for nine hours, reported the Daily Mail.

They then left as dawn broke, stealing her yacht's dinghy.

Breaking down several times as she spoke from her hospital bed in Satun, Thailand, the 57-year-old grandmother spoke of her ordeal: 'I was in the stern cabin... naked. It was a very hot night.

'Three young men came in. They were holding hammers and they pushed me 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 and made signs to me to start the engine.'

She said, in between sobs: 'There was no sign of my husband... this was the first time I realised he might be dead. I waited and listened and heard nothing.'

Police believe that Irish-born Mr Robertson, 64, who runs a chain of coffee shops in Sussex, England, may have also had his throat cut due to the quantity of blood found on the boat.

It was a grisly reality Mrs Robertson had to endure.

She said: 'As I walked through the boat, I realised I was walking through the blood of my husband.

'From that moment I knew I was fending for my life.'

The frightened woman made signs to ask if the pirates were going to kill her, but the pirates gestured to her that they would not and would leave once they were done.

She said: 'One, the youngest, was trying to be kind, even though he was guarding me with a machete.

'He kept saying 'I am sorry'... one of the few English phrases he knew and he brought me food and drink.

Five hours later, around 6am, Mrs Roberton's feet and hands started swelling badly from her bindings.

Then the boat stopped.

She recalled: 'One of the men asked me how to put down the anchor... started to ransack the boat.

'Earlier there had been sounds as if something was being moved to another boat. I realised later it was my husband being put into the sea.'

She tried to dive off the yacht, but failed and was tied up more severely. The pirates then started up the engine, only slowing down three hours later.

At this time, the pirates tried to leave the yacht.

They put Mrs Robertson in the cabin and took the rubber dinghy attached to the yacht.

This time, the plucky woman managed to free herself and immediately switched on the distress call.

In a ironic twist, the pirates were out less than 30m away from when their dinghy's engine spluttered out.

They turned around to return to the yacht but Mrs Robertson was already speeding towards some fishing boats nearby.

The pirates gave up paddling after her and headed towards the shore.

Not over

But her ordeal was not over.

She tried to get help from the fishermen, waving her blue-and-white sarong and shouting 'Mayday' but was ignored as they did not understand English.

So she had to pull up along one of the fishing vessel and jump on it.

She said: 'I would not go back to my boat. I did not want to feel Malcolm's blood on my feet.'

Even though the fishermen could not understand her, they called the police after seeing her distress.

When the police arrived, they went on the hunt for the pirates and caught them shortly after.

Said Mrs Robertson: 'I recognised them immediately. Some of them were even wearing Malcolm's clothes.'

While Mrs Robertson is traumatised by the experience, she isn't blaming the Thai people for the attack.

She said: 'The Thai people have been very kind. They are lovely people. We do not blame them for all this.

'Nurses have given me pills to help me sleep. But they do not stop me having nightmares.

'I hope they find Malcolm's body, but I have no idea... where he was thrown overboard.'

As of last night, rescuers have yet to locate him.

Police Captain Suparak Pongkarnjana told AP: 'The victim shouted for help and they slit his throat with a knife and hit him before throwing his body overboard.'

Thai police said today they would ask the prosecutor to call for the death penalty for the pirates.

In their defence, the Myanmar pirates claimed they had run away from a Thai fishing boat where the captain had treated them as slaves.

A police spokesman said: 'They told us they saw the yacht and... boarded it intending to take the dinghy. Mr Robertson was killed when he resisted them.

'They tried to get as far away as possible from the fishing fleet they were with. They decided to rob the boat because they had not been paid.'

A spokesman for Britain's Foreign Office said: 'Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time. We are urgently pursuing this case with local police who are investigating the incident.'

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