Panama, Bocas del Toro: American Couple Brutally Assaulted And Robbed On Their Sailboat Near Isla Colon

Published 12 years ago, updated 5 years ago

Posted Sunday 8 July 2012, from a report by Don Winner for the Panama Guide, plus extra information reported to noonsite by cruisers in the area.

A pair of armed and dangerous assailants brutally attacked an American couple last night aboard their sailboat anchored in the “South Anchorage” of the Bocas Marina, next to Isla Colon in the province of Bocas del Toro in the Republic of Panama.

The attack was in the early hours of this morning, Sunday, 8 July 2012. The assailants pulled up next to the couple’s sailboat at 1:00 am in a typical Panamanian wooden cayuco. The two assailants boarded the sailboat, held the couple at gunpoint, and tied them up. They ransacked the boat and stole everything of value, including cameras, electronics, a computer, cash, and jewelry. The attack lasted at least two hours, during which time the victims were assaulted and brutalized.

The anchorage is reported to be very busy (20 boats), however only a couple of boats out of the hundred or so in the area responded when the victims were finally able to put out a call for help on the radio at 3:30 in the morning after the assailants had left.

A Description of the Assailants:

The two men are described as skinny, black men, medium height, and short hair. They spoke both English and Spanish. During the assault, one of them called the other by the name “Emilio”. The victims say the men had a “Jamaican accent”, but it’s unlikely they were actually from Jamaica. It’s much more likely the attackers are from the Afro-Panamanian community in the area of Bocas del Toro. Many of the members of the “Afro-Antillean” community are West Indian immigrants from Trinidad, Barbados, Martinique, and Jamaica, brought to Panama in order to build the Panama Canal in the early 1900s. There are several concentrated communities of Panamanians who are members of this “Afro-Antillean” community, specifically on Isla Bastimentos and on other islands in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago.

Dinghy Recovered:

The assailants took the sailboat’s dinghy when they left. After dawn this morning someone spotted a dinghy floating free off of the coast of Isla Carenero. Someone swam out and recovered the dinghy.

Police Report Filed:

The victims have filed a complaint with the National Police in Bocas del Toro. The woman was taken to the hospital.

A Possible Earlier, Related Attempt?

There is a report that some would be assailants – possibly these same two men – tried to board another sailboat at 10:30 pm last night, on Saturday 7 July 2012. It was reported that these would-be victims were able to “repel” that boarding attempt and nothing else happened.

It is understood that the cruising couple who were attacked had only been in Panama for a couple of weeks. This is the worst incident in the past few years to happen in Bocas del Toro, which up until now had a pretty “secure” reputation. It is hoped the government will take this event seriously and put as much resource as possible into finding the attackers.

Report Received Monday 9 July from Vern Noren, currently at anchor in Bocas del Toro.

We have been in the Bocas area for almost 2 months and this is the first crime we have heard about. Two days ago a boat anchored off the N end of town was boarded late at night. The couple on board heard the intruders and managed to chase them off, losing one gas can to the intruders.

Much more seriously another boat in the S anchorage was boarded around 2 am by two men who paddled out to their boat. The intruders had a gun, tied the couple up and spent 2 hours or more ransacking the boat and drinking beer.

They drilled holes in the floors, ripped open leather cushions, spilled food and drink everywhere, ripped out electronics, threw all the clothes on the floor searching for money. The inside of the boat was a disaster. More menacing the intruders hit the woman in the face with the pistol and eventually raped her 3 times before leaving with the couple’s dinghy.

The rest of the cruisers here are in shock at the pointless violence these men used. A reward has been offered by one of the cruisers and a local marina has offered the couple who have attacked a free slip for 2 weeks.

The police took them to the hospital in the morning but only came out to the boat 9 hours later to investigate (and I believe that was after the captain went into town to fetch them).

The couple is now safely in the marina and all the boating community is helping where we can. The marina has offered a $500 reward and others are adding to that. An artist has offered to sketch the faces if the couple wants to try it. Hopefully, these guys will be caught soon. 5 boats left in the anchorage this morning and the locals know this can have a devastating effect on the local economy.

Vern Noren

See report received Saturday 7 July from a boat in Roatan, Honduras, who were also boarded, attacked and robbed.

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