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Saint Lucia, Vieux Fort: British Skipper dies in Armed Robbery - January 2014

By Sue Richards — last modified Feb 23, 2017 08:45 AM
Contributors: Sky News; Daily Mail; St Lucia News Online
A British cruiser died trying to protect his wife from armed boarders whilst at anchor in Vieux Fort, Friday 17 January.

Published: 2014-01-19 00:00:00
Topics: Piracy Reports 2014
Countries: St Lucia

Saint Lucia, Vieux Fort: British Skipper dies in Armed Robbery - January 2014

Skipper of SY Magnetic Attraction Roger Pratt

A murder inquiry was launched after the death of cruiser Roger Pratt, 62, in Saint Lucia last Friday.

Roger and his wife Margaret were attacked while their boat was berthed at the Seaport in Vieux Fort.

Local press reports:  According to the police, “About midnight on Friday, January 17, 2014, officers attached to the Vieux Fort Police Station responded to a report of robbery on a vessel named “Magnetic Attraction” which was berthed at the Seaport in Vieux Fort.

“On arrival, the officers received information that three armed men had boarded the vessel, attacked and injured the occupants before they fled. At the time of the incident, the vessel was occupied by 60-year-old Margaret Pratt and her 62-year-old husband, Roger Pratt.

“Within minutes of the robbers fleeing, Margaret went in search of her husband and found him floating in the nearby waters. Roger was retrieved and transported to St. Jude Hospital via ambulance along with his wife. He was pronounced dead on arrival while Margaret was treated and discharged.

“A post mortem examination by Dr Stephen King showed that the retired businessman had been beaten unconscious before he drowned. "There was blunt trauma and there was brain damage," Dr King said. "The wounds didn't look like clubs or pieces of metal, they were more in keeping with fists."

Five men have been arrested so far in connection with the murder. Dr King said that the detectives would examine their knuckles for any signs of injuries from inflicting the beating.

Mr Pratt also suffered two broken ribs during the attack and salt water was found in his lungs. The official cause of death was given as "asphyxia secondary to blunt force trauma".

There were no traces of DNA found under Mr Pratt's fingernails, a common sign of a struggle, but Dr King said he believed from the injuries that Mr Pratt had died fighting.

Incorrect early reports claimed that the attackers arrived armed with guns or knives but police have found no evidence weapons were used.

Vernon Francois, the police commissioner, said detectives believe the men had only intended to rob the boat and may have been surprised to find Mr Pratt and his wife Margaret, 60, aboard.

"This appears to have been intended as a robbery and went out of control," Commissioner Francois said.

Roger and Margaret were half way through a year-long voyage to celebrate Margaret's 60th birthday. They left Lowestoft, UK in June heading to the Algarve, Portugal and then on to the Caribbean.

It is not clear if Roger and Margaret were asleep at the time of the boarding, or if the boat was unlocked.

Three men were initially arrested on Saturday near the scene of the crime following a tip-off from the local community.

Police said the men, all in their mid-twenties, are cooperating with investigators and all three are expected to face charges.

Two more men were arrested on Tuesday as police expanded the scope of the investigation. It is not clear if the pair are believed to have taken part in the killing or acted as accomplices.

Writing on her blog in the hours before the attack, Mrs Pratt told how bureaucracy thwarted their attempts to leave that part of the Caribbean.

She said: "On Thursday morning the plan was to clear out from Soufriere, then to travel south and use up the 72 hours before we had to be away. But bureaucracy intervened. HM Customs and Excise in Soufriere told us that exit had to happen within 24 hours of clearing out; and that anyway, we couldn't clear out of Soufriere that day because the Immigration Officer hadn't come to work(!!)

"So here we are in Vieux Fort, the most southerly port of clearance in St Lucia. It's very different. There's a port; an airport and no tourists - and so it's a regular town. We went ashore in the fishing dock this morning and explored the options for clearing out.  If we don’t want to clear out at the airport over the weekend, we have to wait til Monday, at the commercial port.  It’s a good anchorage, although every so often a big gust tears down the hills and buffets the boat.  There’s no swell to speak of. So we’ll be here over the weekend; clear out on Monday, and leave on Tuesday."

"I wish to assure you that as a destination St. Lucia remains relatively safe for nationals and visitors alike," Lorne Theophilus, the tourism minister, said. "We are fully committed to seeing this investigation through to a final conclusion."

More facts about this tragic attack when we have them.

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Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Feb 23, 2017 08:39 AM

UPDATE: February 10, 2017
The widow of victim Roger Pratt has been interviewed by Yachting World magazine and provides additional details about this tragic event. Three years have passed and while the 4 suspects remain in custody, no progress towards trial is evident.
See link: http://www.yachtingworld.com/news/widow-of-murdered-yachtsman-fears-killers-may-not-face-trial-104405

Sue Richards
Sue Richards says:
Feb 19, 2014 11:52 AM

Correction: Bob Hathaway is not the Chairman of the Hotel Association of Saint Lucia. He is the manager of Marigot Bay Marina, and Chairman of the Saint Lucia Marine Trades Association.

irmtrud
irmtrud says:
Feb 01, 2014 06:03 PM

NOONSITE

Pascal and Irmi Degaudenzi, on board of SY/ Tournesol, Oxion32 DI, cruising, actually in the San Blas Islands, heading for the Panama Cannel and the Pacific Ocean
Contact : voiliertournesol@gmail.com

With attention and sadness we followed the articles concerning the murder of Roger Pratt. We are very upset about the statement of the Mr. Hathaway, chairman of visitor's safety committee of the St Lucian Hotel and Tourism Association, who said the couple should not have resisted when their attackers boarded the boat.
"A 60-year-old British couple is no match for three to five young, fit St Lucian's," he said. "Unless you're Arnold Schwarzenegger, if someone wants your stuff you let them take it. You don't try to fight back."
Is Mrs. Pratt to consider as part of the stuff?

Do you know the fate of the French sailor Eric Sommer who defended himself against a St. Lucian citizen coming on board of his sailing yacht Protinus, anchored in Rodney Bay in date of 12thMay2012 without authorization? He is imprisoned in St. Lucia since 22 months, still waiting for the act of accusation. To learn more about that story please use the link to the petition we launched on Avaaz.org.
The link is: http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Kenny_Anthony_Prime_Minister_of_Saint_Lucia_West_Indies_Free_Eric_Sommer_1/?eyVUNgb

We would appreciate if you take a few minutes to study and to put in relation these two stories, and above all if you could advise cruising people to avoid this island, where security is only « relative » and where politics, police and justice do not allow you to defend yourself!

Best regards

General
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