Skipper of seized craft collaborated with attackers
Killing of three fishers on high seaOctober 16, 2012, 9:48 pm
By Shamindra Ferdinando and Norman Palihawadana
An armed gang, in the early hours of yesterday, seized a trawler, Thejan Putha, off the southern coast after throwing four out of the five-man fishing crew overboard. Three of them are believed to have been drowned, while the other was rescued by a foreign ship and handed over to the Sri Lankan Navy Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) Jayasagara about 50 nautical miles south east of Sri Lanka. All four thrown overboard had their hands tied by some members of the gang, who revealed their plan to migrate to Australia during a conversation with the skipper of the trawler.
The trawler left Kudawella around 10.00 pm carrying six persons, including the skipper, who had been involved in the conspiracy to seize the trawler.
Except for the fifth man, who had jumped overboard all others had injuries caused by sharp objects. He, too, was rescued by another foreign vessel and handed over to SLNS Jayasagara.
The rescued fishermen told the SLN that a fibre glass dinghy carrying ten persons, including a woman and child had arrived alongside their trawler about one hour after they left Kudawella. They had boarded the trawler with the consent of the captain of the fishing craft and thereafter tied five members of the crew.
Thereafter they had consumed several bottles of liquor and about 4.00 a.m. decided to throw all five overboard, the rescued men told SLN Jayasagara crew.
An SLN official quoted one of the rescued victims as having said how he jumped overboard when those who seized the trawler attacked them with swords. He was the only one to escape without cut injuries.
The police said that the identity of the skipper was known.
Authorities said that the gang could be planning to board a bigger vessel taking illegal immigrants to Australia.
SLN headquarters said that the two fishermen had been rescued by two merchant vessels, Lusail and Edith Maersk.
MV Lusail had deviated from its own course in order to hand over the injured fisherman it had taken onboard. Timely action taken by the two merchant vessels had been commendable and it had saved the lives of the fishermen, the Navy said.
SLN spokesman Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya said. The crew of MV Lusail had also given $ 500 to the man rescued by them, he said.
Having provided onboard emergency medical treatment, SLNS Jayasagara brought the rescued fishermen to the Galle Harbour and handed them over to Galle Harbour Police.
The rescued men told police that their skipper made a telephone call shortly after they had left Kudawella and was probably talking to a member of the gang who launched the attack.
Sources said that every effort would be made to track down the gang now believed to on its way to Australia.
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Last Updated May 21 2013 | 06:02 pm