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Dominica weekly is a personal weblog about the nature island of Dominica.


Yesterday morning at 4 a.m. I was woken by sudden call. It was my friend, who lives with her husband on their yacht, anchored in the Portsmouth area. They had just been robbed, almost beaten to death and neither of them knew the number for the police. I am trying to tell her the number, but realize that in her condition she will not be able to make the call – furthermore find a right words in English to explain what had happened to she and her husband.

Fortunately, I was able quickly get in contact with the Portsmouth police station and alert them of the situation. But I started panicking when the officer told me that they were unable go to the yacht and could only look-on from the on shore. During that time, my friends were trapped on their yacht (because their dingy boat was stolen), beaten, and had no way of reaching onshore for help.

While Chris (my boyfriend) was speaking with the police (because I was about to loose my self-control), she called to inform me that the robbers were on the way back to the yacht and that she was scared. The only thing I could do at the moment is just tell that we got the police and they were on their way.

After a few minutes gone by, I called her again… they had found a boat and were heading for the shore. After exchanging few phone calls they finally met up with the police. Her husband speaks who only German, and she who only knows a little bit of English were so traumatized by the whole experience couldn’t even remember the words to say that they were robbed much-less to describe the perpetrators. I briefly described the situation to the policeman and sighed with relief – they were now safe and would receive medical attention.

At the hospital they stitch the scars on her head and gave her anesthesia, because it appears that one of her ribs was broken. Luckily, there was nothing seriously wrong with her husband.

Update: 8 hours later, x-rays confirms that she did suffered a broken rib.

A few hours later, I called her again to check up on their condition and to get a clear understanding on what how exactly happened. She went on to describe to me – that she was suddenly woken by someone putting a shirt over her head and hitting her in the jaw (she said: “I am grateful to the Lord, that none of my teeth didn’t come out!”) and he start to strangle her (“I almost though that I will die”). During the robbery, two of the armed men beat them, while the third man searched the yacht for money and other valuable items.

Despite all what had happened, my friends are very grateful too the police officers and the doctors at the Portsmouth hospital for all the sympathy and assistance they gave to them.

This is the second case a of yacht robbery in Portsmouth where the victims were tied and beaten. The first robbery occurred some time in the middle of May of this year; soon after the Portsmouth police along with some dedicated residents of the area started a community watch/security watch-out, that patrols the area close the Portsmouth beach during the night on small fishing boats. Unfortunately, my friends who heard about the first robbery never took the situation seriously. They went ahead and move their yacht closer to the Indian River, and left the yacht open during the night.

Dominica is consider one of the safer islands in the Caribbean, which trends to make visitors let their guard down from time to time, which makes prime targets for criminals. So please, continuing to take all the necessary precautions that you would take on any other island, and always be aware of your surroundings.

Here are some tips that you might find helpful when sailing to Dominica:

1. Get to know the all emergency numbers, for example:

  • Dominica Police headquarters in Roseau: 448-2222
  • Portsmouth Police station: 445-5222
  • Princess Margaret Hospital: 448 – 2231
  • Portsmouth Hospital: 445-5237
  • Police, Fire, and Ambulance hotline – 999

2. Learn areas where is security patrol for yachts.
3. Padlock or find some an alternative way to secure your dingy boat at nights
4. Close your yacht for the night: don’t leave open doors, windows and etc. This will make it harder for the perpetrators to get in without you knowing.
5. Keep an extra cell phone on the yacht at all times, and learn the emergency (or crisis hotline) phone numbers in the event you’ve to make a call for help.
6. Get a dog – it can alert you in advance about danger.
7. Get something to protect yourself (at least traumatic pistol).

If there is anyone who have more safety tips or ideas on how we can reduce the number of yacht robberies particularly in the Portsmouth area, please share them in the comments below.

Stay Safe….and bye for now!

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22 Comments »

Comment by Joel Halfwassen Subscribed to comments via email
2009-06-29 02:02:35

Wow! I can’t believe this happened! Why can’t the police do anything but watch from the shore? Is it a funding issue or a legal issue?

One of the first things I did when my Ukrainian wife moved to Phoenix was to show her where all of the emergency numbers are and how to dial 911. Fortunately she has not had to use it and hopefully never will!

Joel

Comment by Veselo
2009-06-29 07:52:23

My friend had an emergency numbers on her phone, and in some place in the yacht, but she was not herself and just can’t find them. So, better to keep them in the head. At least to remember – 999

 
 
Comment by Iggy Pop
2009-06-29 12:20:34

Pirates of Somali in Dominica..

 
Comment by Helen Subscribed to comments via email
2009-06-29 15:58:27

Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security Patrols the main anchorage in the North end of Prince Rupert Bay every night. Please communicate with the boat buoys to ensure you are safely moored. Dominica is a safe place but like anywhere villains will take advantage of an opportunity.

 
Comment by Dan
2009-07-05 15:13:00

My wife and I were told on Friday (July 3) that suspects in this case have been arrested. Can anyone verify that?

 
Comment by Chris
2009-07-05 19:20:17

Yes Dan …the perpetrators were apprehended by the police.

 
Comment by Dan
2009-07-05 22:01:56

You write that the perpetrators were arrested. Are they presumed innocent until proven guilty, or are they presumed guilty unless they can prove their innocence?

In any event, I hope that the ones arrested are the guilty parties, and that they get severe prison sentences.

 
Comment by Suzanne Subscribed to comments via email
2009-07-18 10:28:35

My heartfelt sympathy goes out to these people. I know they were not

told the full details of the previous attack as it happened to me and

I have noticed how the crime has been downplayed considerably and the

violence involved is frequently omitted from any reports.

The criminals don’t just immobilise you to rob you. They positively

enjoy beating up white women.This happened to me earlier this year. I

suffered severe bruising to my face and had to have my skull x-

rayed. They beat me and terrorised me, even after I gave them

approximately US$2000 in various currencies. They stole everything of

value on board and completely ransacked our home. My husband suffered

two herniated discs and is still recovering. The psychological damage

is beyond words.

Not only did we have to cope with this appalling attack but afterwards

faced considerably hostility from some Dominicans. Mr. Hubert Winston,

president of the Dominica Marine Association, attempted to discredit

us, even going so far as to say I was not injured though I have

photographs and a medical report to prove otherwise.

Mr Hubert Winston, who presents himself as an authority on the safety

aspects of cruising in Dominica, admits to only one previous attack in

2005 (actually it has happened a lot more than that, see

http://www.safetyandsecuritynet.com/leewardislands.htm – and note,

this website does not include all attacks!). In an effort to play down

the vicious nature of this attack in 2005 he has been telling people

that the victims were involved in drugs. I have an email from

Mr.Winston clearly showing his views of visiting foreign yachtspeople.

He cares only for his business interests. This goes for the boatboys

as well. Try to find one to tell you the truth about all the previous

attacks – they deny the violence completely.

An update on the police investigation: my husband has just returned

from the trial. Only two of the three thugs have been caught. For

wrecking our lives the two in custody received 2 years imprisonment,

no doubt they will be out long before that. Of all the equipment and

cash stolen from us only one laptop (now ruined) and a camera were

recovered and returned to us.

As I have a good command of the English language and many contacts in

the sailing community worldwide I am going to make sure more people

learn about the true crime statistics for this island. Do not believe

anyone if they tell you Dominica is safe. I have now learned that it is actually one of the

worst islands for violent crime in the entire Caribbean.

Safety Tips for avoiding incidents like this one:

If you go to Dominica carry a weapon. The police were incredulous that

we did not own a firearm.

The best way of avoiding a violent attack on your yacht:

DON’T GO TO DOMINICA – they will tell you it’s safe, but it isn’t.

 
Comment by John Subscribed to comments via email
2009-07-18 11:16:28

In reply to Dan and Chris;

Only two of the three have been apprehended – one is still on the run from police.

I have just returned from the trial. For the previous crime against a yacht and ruining our lives, and also for ruining the reputation of Dominica’s tourism they have been given just two years prison.

Comment by Cesare Bonventre
2010-03-31 20:45:44

Take it from an American – Prison will only make them more hardened & clever in their pursuit of crime!

 
 
Comment by Helen Subscribed to comments via email
2009-07-20 08:32:33

Please note that the case continues in court today. Members of Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security will be present in court again today to review the proceedings and hopefully help ensure that the offenders spend much longer in jail! We will report back as soon as possible.

 
Comment by Helen Subscribed to comments via email
2009-07-20 15:41:26

I have just returned from the end of the trial of Veselo’s friend and the two offenders got an additional 7 years and 6 years 8 months each. This is obviously never going to take away the pain and suffering of either injured party but will hopefully make these people and any other criminals think again before they try boarding a yacht and traumatizing visitors. In the meantime, we again reiterate that due to financial constraints, Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security can not patrol the full bay – only the designated anchorage from Blue Bay to Purple Turtle and we again request that all boat moor in this area. My thoughts go out to all injured parties.

 
Comment by Suzanne Subscribed to comments via email
2009-07-21 10:09:05

Yes Helen, you work in the tourist industry as well, don’t you, and are naturally rather worried about your future business. In answer to your recent comments may I repeat that for the crime against myself and my husband the two of the three criminals who have been caught were given two years imprisonment. Yes, for wrecking our lives AND Dominica’s reputation they only received two years. We weren’t beaten up enough, you see, by Dominica’s standards, and the longer sentence is only because the criminals were foolish enough to commit the second crime. And admit it, you and your colleagues did not believe what had happened to us until the 2nd robbery took place. You thought we were exaggerating and making an unnecessary fuss, didn’t you? Is that why we faced so much hostility from you people? As Mr Winston said in his email; “no one has been killed visiting Dominica!”
The two year sentence means that if the criminals had been caught and tried before they had the opportunity of robbing Veselo’s friends they would be out of jail in time to have a go at next year’s visitors.
Now they are locked up safely as you said, thank heavens, but the prisons must be full to bursting with all the people who get put away for robbing tourists in Dominica. There always seem to be others to take their place though, when they get banged up.
Apart from locking up so many criminals after they’ve done their thieving and battering, if you want more visitors to return to your island you people should try to clean up the amount of crack addicts and trainee con men who patrol the street outside Big Papas and make a career of begging, harrassing and hassling people. Shortly after our robbery when we were anchored at Big Papas and I had to walk down town to shop for food I was trailed by a particularly obnoxious “tour guide” one day who followed me for quite some distance, shouting at me, furious because I ignored him. He was yelling at the top of his voice about Dominica being “The Friendly Island”. If my neck and throat hadn’t been so painful from my recent strangulation by one of these “friendly” islanders I would have had to laugh at his choice of words.
Oh, and while I’m at it let me mention the Security Patrol you say is in operation in the North of Prince Ruperts Bay. Could they not assist the police in getting out to Veselo’s friend’s boat the night of their attack? No? Perhaps they had all gone home to bed thinking all was well in the world. Do they finish work at 3 am? I had to get up at 4 am one morning, before dawn, to take a friend to the airport. It was difficult to find Big Papas jetty because there were no lights whatsoever and it was very dark. When we found the jetty and got ashore at Big Papas we searched for the security guard who is supposed to be there 24/7 but the place was empty and no one was around, not even any violent gunmen, thankfully, I guess we were lucky that time.
One more point before I end, Helen, did you get a copy of the photographs which were returned to me on my camera? I emailed them to a few people in Dominica last week, perhaps you were among them. The camera was the only item which was returned to me after the trial (there was a laptop of ours too but it had been broken). Can you believe it that one of the robbers took a whole set of pictures of himself and his girlfriend copulating and performing other sexual acts and these pictures were left on my camera for me to find! LOL! What a lovely souvenir of Dominica the friendly island!

Comment by Veselo
2009-07-21 22:42:18

Suzanne, I can see your pain and anger. My friend soul is far from ok too, she try to be positive and get her life back. It is a really difficult.

And I also sorrow for the island, because I live here for a very long time and can tell how friendly people here and how life is tranquil. But as in any places in the world, it is enough just several sick persons, who will ruin everybody future.

Comment by Suzanne Subscribed to comments via email
2009-07-22 09:39:55

Veselo, I can’t tell you how distressing it was to find out about your friends and the terrible injuries suffered. I felt so bad that this had happened – when it might have been prevented if only the Dominicans concerned with the marine sector of tourism had not tried to downplay what had happened to us. Your friends might have been told of a robbery, but I am willing to bet they were not told about us being tied up, beaten and threatened with a gun. Also I doubt your friends were told that these particular criminals enjoy beating and strangling the woman in preference to the man. You see a lot of people did not believe us that we were attacked so brutally.

I only hope that your friends were given a little more respect and sympathy than we were. And I hope Mr.Winston has stayed away from them. The last thing you need, after being robbed, beaten, and threatened with death is to have someone make out you are exaggerating and that it’s all your fault, which is exactly what happened to us. It was the lying and two-faced nature of some of the Dominican people which was so upsetting – worse than the robbery itself.

Yes, some Dominicans are nice, the Portsmouth Community Watch organisation were incredibly sympathetic and supportive to us and are still trying their hardest to find the whereabouts of the rest of our possessions because we cannot afford to buy replacements having had so much money taken from us. If it wasn’t for their support I don’t know how we would have survived the 10 days we spent in Dominica after the attack. We could not leave because of my husband’s injuries.

Please tell your friends that after a couple of months they will feel much better. I started to feel a great improvement to my spirits as soon as we left Dominica. We departed the island suddenly after receiving a copy of the nasty email from Mr.Winston. Because of his unkind remarks and lies we felt we were in further danger from the local people. My husband was still in great pain at the time and our boat was damaged from our previous voyage but we left anyway preferring to drown at sea rather than remain any longer in Dominica.

And I feel great now! We are not letting this experience change us and we are determined to continue our voyage to the Pacific ocean where we hear the people are peaceful and friendly and there is not as much violence and thiefing as in the Caribbean. The other evening we held a public showing of the photographs which were returned to me on my camera (the only item we got back after the trial apart from a broken computer). One of the thieves left many pornographic pictures of himself and his girlfriend and these were on my camera when it was returned to me by the police if you can believe that! Anyway, we were howling with laughter when we showed these pictures to everybody here! It was so funny!

Veselo, I worry for your safety living on the island. I also have friends who have lived there a long time. Their home was attacked at night by a gunman who actually shot at them! They now employ a private security guard. Have you thought about what is going to happen when Ross University closes and when the cruise ships and other tourists stop coming? The robbers, of which there are many in Dominica, will be very short of victims.

Comment by Veselo
2009-08-13 16:44:29

What you described is a very terrible and I am sorry. With my friend it was opposite situation. She told they got a really attention at the hospital and from the police (especially thank you from her to Mr. Cuffy and other people, who was in the court and all this process, but who names I forgot unfortunately). While she was in the hospital a lot of people came to see her: they were shocked by this terrible accident, because they can’t believe it was happened in Dominica, but nobody showed disrespect as you described. Actually, on the next day of how it happened, even the minister of tourism came personally to their boat and was apologizing for what happened.

Not long time after the court, it was discussion on the radio and everybody who called on the phone, was showing their sorrow. The Government is planning to invest money to build a berth for cruise ship in Portsmouth together with move away huts and build shops, organize paid parking space for the yachts, putting up lights and etc.

In my native land, I have a friend of friend, who went to the prison. He was working at the shop and saw how some guy without mask on his face came to this shop and shoot several people in the middle of the day!!! The alive witnesses decided to tell that my friend of friend was shooting. They did it, because they were intimidated by somebody and afraid for their families. That is a real place where I have to worry!

I think in this world wherever you go – you have to keep all necessary precautions and always be aware of your surroundings. The bad things can happen everywhere. In Dominica the justice and democracy works.

 
 
 
 
Comment by Gini Subscribed to comments via email
2009-07-22 06:16:00

My heart goes out to the latest victims! I couldn’t agree with Suzanne more! If the criminals can expect to receive a NOMINAL two year jail sentence – IF they are caught and prosecuted – then it is surely far safer to avoid Dominica rather than face the horrendous and possible fatal consequences of carrying a firearm on board.

It is clear that these felons are known locally – as will become revealed to all imminently. So – if they do wish to clear their badly tarnished image and truly welcome visitors – let them RETURN the stolen money and articles. Having been pirated, with my late husband, by armed boarders in SE Asia, I know exactly the feeling of humiliation and powerlessness, which is tantamount to rape – which I have also suffered.

We long-distance cruisers do so because we enjoy the fraternal way of life and love to meet people of different cultures. Many of these are as poor as we are. Why do some then see us, often with our home-built, basic boats, as members of the super-rich elite? We often have to try and find work locally, just to put food on the table or fuel in the tank. The rich do not find themselves in the risky situation (usually weather-wise) of having to lay to anchor, choosing instead to stay in secure, expensive marinas.

I, too, with my international cruising and ham radio connections am spreading the BAD news about the abysmal, denied reputation of Dominica. IF AND WHEN I hear that it has changed its attitude towards visitors to its shores, I will do the same to correct this dire picture.

Buck up your ideas, Mr Winston – you are a disgrace to your name. Do not persecute the already persecuted.

 
Comment by W. Wansborough Subscribed to comments via email
2009-11-28 21:15:57

I was born in Dominica and I don’t like to hear people having a bad experience there. I makes me feel sad.

However, it must be understood that a society with zero crime in this modern world that we live in does not exist anywhere.

I think plenty more measures could be taken to reduce the problem significantly. The people who have a financial interest in the tourist industry(this is probably nearly everybody)should promote good education for all, strong effective laws, employment, tough prison sentences, professionalism and mutual respect amongst people with the same vigor with which they sell their services.

But that is not going to happen just yet. Not while money is being made. The situation has to get worse before it is taken seriously. But then that is when it is more difficult if not impossible to solve. I think prison sentences should be longer and ex-prisoners could be electronically tagged and monitored for some time after they are let out. there must be quite a few repeat offenders.

When I was a child growing up in Dominica in the 1960s none of these types of criminal acts happened. We lived in a parish near Roseau in a concrete house. We had a few luxury items such as a record player, a fridge radios, ornaments etc. The house was never locked even when we went away. I never owned a set of keys as a child. It never crossed anybody’s mind that their belongings would be stolen if they left their house open. At that time the prison was open, inhabited by the same well known characters who had most likely just taken a coconut from a landowners estate. If by chance a worse crime than that happened the person would be sent to prison in Jamaica. Also there was no prison for women.

Some of the things that are considered crimes now they weren’t crimes when I was a kid. These days social attitudes are changing. Beating ones children or wife is now a criminal act. It wasn’t in my day. Oh by the way, I had never seen television until I traveled to England (in the 1970s) at the ripe old age of 20 years. In England crime was real and terrifying.

In Dominica they want modernization but that comes at a price. More interaction with the outside world brings benefits with some erosion of moral standards.

The interesting thing about Dominica is they have a chance to turn the situation around while the problem is still in its infancy.

I think the people who are advising against going to Dominica because they were robbed and beaten on their yacht are hypocrites. They have every right to feel angry, who wouldn’t? but on the other other hand, where do they come from?

USA
Britain
Europe
Brazil
Russia
Big Industrialized Country etc.

What no crime? No mafia? No serial killers? No football hooligans? No criminal industry? No crooked politicians?No drug dealers? No Beggars? No crack addict No? No homeless people? No CIA killing other peoples governments? No crime where these people come from?

In Dominica the tourists visit the nature trails. In London they can visit “the London Dungeon” at London Bridge where all the worse serial killers are celebrated. That place is on the tourist trail. I see a queue there every time I go past. All the really bad crimes are sensationalized in the papers and on TV. Books are written, Films are made, the full money-making works. Adults are having sexual intercourse with babies. There is a massive amount of computer fraud in the banking industry. Need I go on?

Lets all have the same moral standards everywhere.

Should you visit anyone of these crime potshots?

What do you think?

 
Comment by Dan
2009-11-30 09:21:57

I don’t think that Dominica has the resources to do electronic monitoring.

Many, in fact most, of the celebrated inmates at the Tower of London were in fact heroes, innocents and political prisoners: Saint Thomas More, Sir Walter Raleigh, Queen Elizabeth I, and several of the wives of King Henry VII, so of course they’re celebrated. People visit Alcatraz Prison in the US not because of who was imprisoned there, but to see how tough the only prison with no escape was like.

Why should it matter where the victims came from?

Comment by W. Wansborough Subscribed to comments via email
2009-12-01 09:08:05

Sorry Dan. I think you have misread what I have written or maybe you don’t know London. I wasn’t talking about the “Tower of London”. I was talking about “The London Dungeon” at London Bridge.
The “Tower of London” is situated near Tower Bridge. You are right in what you say about the “Tower of London” but these two tourist venues are different places entirely. I take your point about Alcatraz but please check the facts about London.

In the “London Dungeon” you can get to know about Dr Crippen and Dennis Nilsen. In the early 1900s crippen soaked his dear wife in acid and nilsen defiled and dismembered 15 young men between 1978 and 1983. Do these people sound like heroes, innocents and political prisoners?

The victims of that yacht crime in Portsmouth are angry with good reason. Who likes their privacy to be invaded in that sort of way? – Nobody. If there is a potential for criminal acts (large or small) anywhere, by the laws of probability it’s going to happen to someone. So erratically sailing a yacht to various locations and not expecting to find crime seems like a naive outlook to me. Yet I do think that threatening to stay away and disseminating this bad news to the yachting community will help spur the authorities into action. I think they have gone ahead with this tourist trade without upgrading law enforcement and other allied services.

Some people who travel abroad tend to pretend that they don’t know what crime is. All I am, saying, in some well-known countries crime is an industry. People are fascinated with it. Those people who had that bad experience on their yacht could probably make a good bit of money selling their story to a news paper in one of the big financial centres. I made an assumption that the yacht people come from such a place. Their comments sounded like they had discovered crime for the first time.

The reaction of the people of the Dominica tourist trade is a predictable one. It’s called a damage limitation exercise. Where money is at stake people concerned become protective. Look at the actions of the New York and London tourist boards when the bombings happened. In Dominica media manipulation of public opinion is either non-existent or crude. People in the tourist trade tend to stress the positive aspects of their products. It is true that Dominica has a low crime rate. That is not the same as saying there is no crime. It’s all relative.

The important thing is that we should all be doing what we can to improve the situation.

 
 
Comment by Cesare Bonventre
2010-03-31 20:42:50

Dominica is better than this!

My understanding is the Police don’t even have the tools to take finger prints – Let alone conduct clandestine surveillance

Im certain the Police are frustrated as well

It’s time the Police are given what they need to get the job done; and for the citizens of Portsmouth to join together in a Citizens Watch Patrol!

If gone unchecked, this will absolutely ruin the future of Dominica – Not to mention Portsmouth which is trying diligently to amend its public-image!

Violent assault thefts are a COMMUNITY PROBLEM! It will take the entire communities vigilance to solve this dilemma – Or else everyone will be the victim!

 
Comment by James derousseau Subscribed to comments via email
2011-06-27 08:00:37

Dominica is a paradise on earth its first inhabitants was Zion,Jerusalem @ Elijah an Island of refuge before the distruction of Babylon as writen gen 2:8-10 to get away from the barbarians on earth.Dominica is a historical Island still inhabited with ancient people after the flood leaving in peace and harmony.Thieves are like babarians all over the world they attack the vulnarable with violence.Yacht people should know its not safe to anker any where if their is no security, they invite trouble on themselves.Dominica is safe as long as you follow the rule of international law with respect.Thieves have no respect they take what is not theirs by force.and the only way to cure a thief is to put the fear of punishment in him so he can consider if its worth it for instance if he steal a cow, sheep,goat,chicken or any animal or insect he get 10years in jail.if he trespass on private property 10 years,sex assult 10years sweeping the streets and clearing rubish,any robbery over $300 15 years hard labour removing rubish,murder death by hanging. at the moment theives take a chance thinking they can get away.and have no fear.If the devil knew he would end in fire he would not trespass to commit sin in this world.

 
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