Caribbean Officials Search for Missing Couple After Yacht Hijacking

February 26, 2024

Yachting Journal

Ralph Hendry and Kathy Brandel (Photo: Salty Dawg Sailing Association)

Police from two countries in the eastern Caribbean are investigating the possible murder of two people believed to be U.S. citizens who owned a catamaran that was hijacked by three fugitives in the waters off the island of Grenada.

The yacht's alleged owners, Kathy Brandel and Ralph Hendry, were last seen Sunday night, when three men escaped from the custody of Grenadian authorities. Police in St. Vincent and the Grenadines captured the men on Wednesday.

The Royal Grenada Police Force said in a statement released on Friday that preliminary information suggests the escaped prisoners had traveled from Grenada to St. Vincent and the Grenadines on a yacht. Investigators are now working on leads "that suggest that the two occupants of the yacht may have been killed in the process," the statement said.

Authorities have yet to officially confirm Brandel and Hendry as the owners of the yacht, but the Salty Dawg Sailing Association, which the couple were members of, released a statement citing the couple as the owners.

That statement said a cruising skipper had reported their yacht, Simplicity, abandoned off of the coast of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The person "found evidence of violence" on the boat, it said.

The organization noted the pair were seasoned sailors who had spent the winter sailing down the eastern coast of the U.S. into the Caribbean.

"This is a very upsetting event and details are still unconfirmed by the authorities, but this does appear to be a tragic event," said Bob Osborn, the association's president.

"Upon inspection, it was found that the yacht had been ransacked, and it was apparent a violent act had taken place," according to the Caribbean Safety and Security Net (CSSN), which collects and disseminates information relating to crimes involving yachts in the region. "Copious amounts of blood were found in the master stateroom, and the two owners were missing."

According to data from AIS, an automatic tracking system that uses transceivers on ships, the yacht left Grenada around 10 p.m. local time on Sunday. The vessel's speed was uncharacteristically fast for the couple, known as fair-weather sailors who go exceedingly slowly, according to the Grenada Cruisers Information Facebook page.

Ron Mitchell, 30, Trevon Robertson, 19, and Abita Stanislaus, 25, were being held at the South Saint George Police Station in Grenada on charges of robbery with violence before their escape to St. Vincent, according to police. Mitchell also faced additional counts of rape, attempted rape, and indecent assault, police added.

(Reuters - Reporting by Robertson Henry; Writing by Sarah Kinosian; Editing by Paul Simao)