Sailor Slain in Thailand

25 March 2009 By Kate Hubert

They dreamt of circumnavigating the globe, but that dream cruelly was cut short.

Malcolm Robertson and his wife Lindy were off the tiny island of Ko Dong in Thailand; an idyllic spot – part of ‘the Butangs’ a small largely uninhabited archipelago with clear waters and stunning jungle-clad peaks. When local fishermen noticed the 44-foot cutter drifting, police were called in to investigate.

Police approached and apparently found three men trying to escape in the yacht’s dinghy, carrying credit cards and other incriminating evidence from the boat. On board they discovered an injured Mrs. Robertson and a cabin splattered in blood. Robertson told the police that “they wanted the dinghy and hit Malc on the head.”

It’s unclear exactly what took place – the police believe he’d been attacked with a hammer – others said his throat was cut. What is certain is that Malcom Robertson was thrown overboard and is now missing and presumed dead.

Officials arrested the three men – all Burmese migrants – and took them to the mainland port of Satun. Mrs. Robertson is currently in hospital recovering from her ordeal – it seems the pirates struck at night; as her husband tried to fight them off she was forced to stay locked in down below. When she finally emerged and found her husband gone she feared the worse. The Royal Thai Navy is continuing the search for Mr. Robertson.

The couple set off from the UK in their yacht Mr Bean in June 1998. They were planning to cruise the local waters before heading off across the Indian Ocean towards the Med, via the Maldives, Chagos and the Seychelles. Meanwhile they enjoyed the rich cruising grounds and hundreds of islands that lie between Phuket to the nearby island of Langkawi in Malaysia.

The Butangs are the most southerly group of islands on Thailand’s Andaman Coast, part of the Tarutao National Park. The remoteness of the islands (they are only just getting on the tourist radar) plus the clearest seas in Southern Thailand make the Butangs a favoured spot for yachts of all sizes – many pull the overnighter from Phuket to enjoy the empty beaches, great diving and deep sea fishing just offshore. Telaga Harbour Marina in Langkawi is just 25 to 30 nautical miles away; many superyachts such as Silolona regularly berth there before hopping to the Butangs.

This attack has comes as an enormous shock as petty pilfering is rare in these waters and violent attacks almost unheard of. (I’ve visited the Butangs many times and we’d never even lock up when leaving the boat for shore.) The police seem confident they’ve caught the culprits – Thai television showed them shackled together before being taken ashore where they were even attacked by angry locals. Although Satun is primarily a ferry and fishing port, the whole of Thailand relies on the tourist industry – 14 million people flock to this country each year. The hope is that this is an isolated incident. Condolences go out to the family and friends of the Robertson’s.