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Southern Spars

Mystery deepens over missing sailor

by Sail-World Cruising round-up on 31 Jul 2012
Sean Terry, missing cruising sailor - photo Dan Newling .. .
More information has come to light about the disappearance of long range cruising sailor Sean Terry, but the mystery as to what could have happened to him merely deepens. Meanwhile, Austrian scuba diving instructor Stefan Pokorny is being held by Seychelles police, who have so far not charged him with any crime.

Sean Terry, 48, vanished while piloting his yacht from the Maldives to Madagascar during a round-the-world sailing trip. The only other crew on board - Pokorny - has claimed he jumped overboard in a fit of anger.

Sean Terry worked as quantity surveyor in Watford before retiring early to sail his 40ft yacht Finnegan around the world.He was last heard from on 18 June, soon after he and Pokorny, 36, left the remote Chagos islands en route for Madagascar.

Seven days later Pokorny piloted the yacht into the small coral island of Coetivy, part of the Seychelles archipelago, alone.

Police remain suspicious about Pokorny's claim that Terry jumped overboard, because the yacht’s 'man overboard' alert button was not pushed - and nor did Pokorny seem to have adequately sought help from nearby shipping, the spokesman said.

Showing her lack of knowledge of MOB procedures, Police spokesperson Judith Middleton said: 'Sean had given no indication of wanting to commit suicide at all. 'After all, this man is meant to be a highly experienced diver. Why on earth did he not try dive in and rescue Sean? Or at least do more to get help.'

Mrs Middleton also revealed that some of Mr Terry’s items, including two laptop computers, are missing from the boat.
The ship’s logbook, in which its captain is obliged to note down any problems, has also disappeared, she said.

Sean was born in the UK but grew up in South Africa. He returned to Britain to work as a quantity surveyor for the engineering firm Edmund Nuttall. However, he got bored of corporate life and ten years ago bought a boat in which he sailed around the world, something he usually did single-handedly.

He is unmarried and has no children. At the time of his disappearance he had split from a woman he had met while sailing, but the split was amicable and he was in the process of arranging to meet up with her again, the family spokesman said.

His disappearance occurred just as he was coming to the end of a complete circumnavigation of the globe.
Having travelled west from Europe, he is believed to have teamed up with Pokorny in Sri Lanka. The plan, Mr Terry emailed his family to say, was that the pair would scuba dive together in the Indian Ocean’s warm, clear waters.
Mr Terry told his family he was excited about the prospect of scuba diving but was also looking forward to joining them in Cape Town, South Africa for Christmas.

Initially they travelled alongside an Italian-owned yacht, called the Alice, whose crew last had radio contact with the pair on 18th June.
The point at which this last radio contact was made was about 300 miles west of the Chagos islands, roughly a quarter of the way to Madagascar.
This point is so remote that the nearest continental land masses, India and Africa, are both over 1,500 miles away.

Pokorny is due to appear in court in the Seychelles’ capital Victoria this Thursday, although it is unclear what charges, if any, he may face.

A spokesman for the Seychelles’ Attorney General said: 'We can confirm that a man is being held in custody but the case is still open and all possible explanations are being investigated by the Seychelles Police regarding the disappearance of Sean Terry.'

For the original report of Sean Terry's disappearance, including a map showing his intended route, http://www.sail-world.com/CruisingAus/Austrian-sailor-held-over-missing-South-African-yachtsman/100078!click_here.
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Letter from Reader:
Sender: Hannes PLvschberger

Message: I have been a friend of Stefan for more than 12 years and did spend a lot of my free time when he was still in Vienna - and also two holidays - together with him.
Stefan is a convinced vegetarian, detests violence and is a very calm and quiet person.
If he happened to witness disputes, he was always the person to step in peacefully and tried to solve the problem by talking .
I know that Stefan is a person you can trust on for 100 %. Even in difficult situations he is a person to rely on. I experienced with him a situation six years ago when the state of health of my father was getting worse. We were together in Sardegna (Italy) and Stefan helped me drive back to Vienna as fast as we could, helped me organizing everything to get back soon enough to see my father once more.
The situation in which Stefan is now is certainly the worst that could happen to him. I am sure he must had quite difficulties after this short time on board to steer a big ship like that precisely in a rescue situation. Additionally you should not leave a ship when you are the last person on it. As discussed in some reports: why didn?t he jump in ? , this seems not to be a good advice in such a situation in the middle of the sea . That would have been a extremely risky situation for him too. (and I personally know that he is not a good swimmer at all, I learned that in Sardegna. And he is not a strong man, he doesn?t weigh more than 50 kgs and is not well trained) If the boat traveled under sails, it would have been almost impossible to react quickly. Why no life saver has been thrown this can answer Stefan only. But everything we do here is speculating.
For me it sounds that Stefan has just decided to tell the true story, even it sounds not perfect for him, and now has to pay the price for it. But this is how Stefan works.
He managed to bring himself back after a probably difficult situation, and I would assume that thinking what he could have done better in this situation is on his mind ever since. Everyone who now know from the distance so exactly what needed to be done,should think about the reality of this situation and how he/she would have reacted.
It is a tragic story now especially for the family and friends of Sean Terry, but this should not be a situation of prejudgement of Stefan. My sympathy to everyone who suffer from this situation and I hope that a fair investigation can take place.


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