Missing U.S. Couple Presumed Dead After Caribbean Catamaran Hijacking, Police Say

The Salty Dawg Sailing Association/GoFundMe
The Salty Dawg Sailing Association/GoFundMe

A missing American couple whose boat was hijacked by three escaped prisoners in the Caribbean last week were likely thrown overboard and are presumed dead, authorities said Monday.

Police in Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines have not yet found any definitive proof that Kathy Brandel and Ralph Hendry are no longer alive. But Don McKenzie, the commissioner of the Royal Grenada Police Force, said there is a “low probability” that the pair survived.

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Speaking at a news conference, McKenzie said three prisoners escaped from a police station in Grenada on Feb. 18 and proceeded to hijack the Americans’ catamaran, Simplicity, the following day. The trio then went to St. Vincent, where they were taken into custody on Wednesday.

“Information suggests that while traveling between Grenada and St. Vincent, they disposed of the occupants,” he added, referring to Brandel and Hendry.

Junior Simmons, a spokesperson for the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force, shared a video hours later adding that no bodies have been found, but the couple are presumed dead based on the available evidence. The three suspects are now being investigated on multiple charges including “bodily harm to the couple,” Simmons said, adding that the couple’s abandoned vessel showed signs of violence.

“Several items were strewn on the deck and in the cabin, and a red substance that resembles blood was seen on board,” he said. Brandel’s son, Nick Buro, previously told CNN that, from the scene on the boat, it appeared “an altercation of some type” had taken place on board and that he was concerned about the “possibility that they aren’t with us.”

“Kathy and Ralph, experienced adventurers, spent their retirement sailing aboard Simplicity, spending summers in New England and embracing the warmth of Caribbean winters,” a GoFundMe created to support their families reads. It added that their loved ones and the sailing community alike had been left “shattered” by the tragedy.

McKenzie on Monday added that police are also investigating how the three suspects had been able to escape custody, with authorities considering whether the breakout was a “system failure” or a “slip up” of some kind, according to the Associated Press.

According to Grenada police, the escaped prisoners are Trevon Robertson, 19, Abita Stanislaus, 25, and Ron Mitchell, 30. The three had been charged months ago on a count of robbery with violence, while Mitchell also faced one count of rape, three counts of attempted rape, and two counts of indecent assault and causing harm.

The men pleaded guilty Monday in a St. Vincent court to immigration related charges, including entering the island as “prohibited” migrants without passports. The three are set to be sentenced on those charges next month.

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