In the week following the tragic shooting death of Capt. Drew Gollan, skipper of the 163-foot (49.8m) Perini Navi S/Y Perseus, the Royal Police Force of Antigua & Barbuda has moved quickly to investigate the crime and reassure the yachting community.
“The investigation is very intense. There have been numerous persons picked up for questioning,” said Neil Parker, deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of operations. “Things are moving along quite well. We are making progress.”
While Parker wouldn’t comment further on the investigation, the Antigua Sun newspaper reported on 29 January that the police were currently holding four people for questioning, a number that was confirmed by other police sources.
On 22 January, the Australian-born Capt. Gollan, 38, was walking home to his apartment with his girlfriend and their child after dinner at a restaurant in English Harbour when they were approached by a man armed with a gun who reportedly demanded their money and valuables. When the captain attempted to protect his family, he was shot in the chest and pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital.
A recent autopsy reportedly confirmed that Gollan died as a result of gunshot wounds to his heart and left lung.
The owner of Perseus reportedly is offering a reward of U.S. $20,000 for information leading to the capture and conviction of Gollan’s killer, who is still at large. The Antigua & Barbuda Marine Association also is raising money to be split between a reward and a fund to provide improved security for yachtsmen in the English Harbour and Falmouth areas. “We have around 15,000 dollars now, and we’ve only just started,” said John Duffy, president of the ABMA. For more information, visit www.abma.ag.
A peaceful march from English Harbour Football Field to Nelson’s Dockyard is scheduled to take place starting at 4 pm Sunday, Feb. 1, to honor and commemorate everyone whose lives have been lost or impacted by violent crime.
Emotions ran high throughout the Antiguan yachting community following the shooting, according to Duffy. However, the mass exodus of yachts from the island that many predicted has not materialized.
“As far as I’m aware, only five or six have left since the incident,” he said. “According to Immigration, all those who have left, apart from two, were scheduled to leave.” Duffy reported that the 147-foot (44.75m) Vitters sailing yacht Timoneer decided to boycott the island for a week in protest. Perseus’ relief skipper understandably also left with the yacht’s traumatized crew.
At the Antigua Yacht Club, where Perseus had been berthed, “A couple of yachts have left but it’s not necessarily related. It’s not as dramatic as everyone is saying,” said AYC Marina Manager Pete Simmonds. Although he lost a close friend in Drew Gollan, Simmonds believes, “This is an isolated incident on a back street in the dark.”
“While it’s sad and an extraordinary incident, and we treat it very seriously, I’m not aware of anything in recent history that has ever happened like this,” said Deputy Commissioner Parker. “People still come to Antigua because it’s a safe destination. Generally speaking, this is, if not the most safe destination in the Caribbean, then one of safest.”
Duffy said, “I think a lot of the skippers who were being very emotive at the first meeting [following the shooting]…when they sat down and thought about it, they were better off here than in many, many other places,” He added, “I think that probably as a direct result of this incident, it will become safer still, because there are so many measures being put in place to up security and increase safety.”
A more visible round-the-clock police presence is just one of the security initiatives seen in the Nelson’s Dockyard/English Harbour area in the days following the shooting. Some of these – such as increased staffing and training for Antigua’s reportedly chronically underfunded police force – already were in the works prior to Gollan’s death.
Parker provided a list of increased police security measures under way:
- The division commander, Inspector Mason, one of the most senior members of the Antigua & Barbuda Royal Police Force, has moved to the Dockyard police station and taken charge there.
- “We’ve increased our operational time to 24/7,” Parker said. The police station formerly closed at midnight.
- “We’ve increased the police manpower by 25 percent in that area,” he added. “We have augmented our foot patrols and mobile patrols in the ‘hotspots’.”
- The military has joined the police in forming a security task force. During “high risk” times of day, such as from sunset to sunrise, patrols now consist of police officers teamed with members of the Antigua & Barbuda Royal Defense Force.
- “We also have plainclothes police officers out and about in the high risk areas,” Parker said.
- The police narcotics unit has been deployed to do “stop and searches” in the area, enforcing Antigua’s policy of Zero Tolerance for drug abuse.
- Bars and restaurants that formerly stayed open until the wee hours are facing stricter regulation. “We have curtailed and pulled back the operating hours of the licensed establishments to the standard that was on their permit,” Parker said.
Police and government officials also are sitting down with community leaders to discuss implementing further security measures such as CCTV cameras, additional lighting and cutting back foliage in high risk areas. “Reducing the dark corners that people can hide in,” Duffy explained.
“We are really sorry that this had to happen,” commented Senior Sargeant William Holder of the Antigua & Barbuda Royal Police Force. “Please come on down and we will do all that is in our power to make sure you are safe and have a good time in Antigua and Barbuda.”