It's normally known for its white sand beaches, lush rain forest, breathtakingly beautiful reefs and is a Mecca for sailing boats. However, terror came to Bocas del Toro in Panama this week when two cruising sailors were attacked on board their sailing boat, as Don Winner reports:
Bocas del Toro, idyllic sailing reputation, spoiled by an attack
A pair of armed and dangerous assailants brutally attacked an American couple 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 started after midnight last night, during early morning hours today, Sunday, 8 July 2012. The assailants pulled up next to the couple's sailboat at 1:00 am early this morning in atypical 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 woman raped several times. The victims were finally able to put out a call for help on the radio at 3:30 am in the morning, after the assailants had left.
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. It's possible (assumption on my part) the assailants took the dinghy in an attempt to keep the victims from being able to leave their boat, and they simply abandoned it near Isla Carenero as they made their escape in their own cayuco.
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. Reported these would-be victims were able to 'repel' that boarding attempt, and nothing else happened. I suspect the DIJ detectives will be investigating and comparing the details to determine or confirm if the two events are related. It seems like too much of a coincidence to think they might not be related in some way.
From what I understand this couple had only been in Panama for a couple of weeks, and the cruiser community is burning up the networks discussing this situation. The Panamanian government, law enforcement, security, and judicial authorities are aware of the situation, and they know that the best thing they can do now is to find and punish the culprits as quickly as possible.
Attention cruising sailors currently in Panama:
If you have any information you think might be related to this investigation or of value, you can report it to the National Police, the DIJ, the FBI, or if you would like a conf identiality firebreak - send it to me, Don Winner. And, I'm sure the community of English speaking expatriates in Bocas del Toro will band together to help and support the victims. For now, let's focus on catching the bad guys. Please spread the word.