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

A British cruiser died trying to protect his wife from armed boarders whilst at anchor in Vieux Fort, Friday 17 January.

Published 9 years ago, updated 4 years ago

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 a 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 to fight.

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 halfway through a year-long voyage to celebrate Margaret’s 60th birthday. They left Lowestoft, the 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[Broken Link] 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 is 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 till 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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