A British man was murdered by pirates aboard his yacht off southern Thailand while his wife was locked in a cabin.
The body of Malcolm Robertson (64) was thrown overboard near Koh Dong, an island about 45 miles west of the Satun province near the border with Malaysia on Monday evening, police said.
Last night conflicting reports suggested Mr Robertson was either beaten to death with a hammer or had his throat slit with a knife.
Three Burmese men have been arrested on suspicion of murder. They were allegedly caught by Mr Robertson as they climbed onto his yacht, named Mr Bean, to steal a dinghy.
Initial reports suggest that Mr Robertson's wife Linda, known as Lindy, was locked in a cabin as the three men fought her husband. When she emerged she found lots of blood on the deck but no sign of her husband, and waved down a passing vessel before calling the police.
It remains unclear how Mrs Robertson sustained the minor injuries for which she is now being treated in hospital, although a scuffle with the fishermen is the likeliest explanation. She is reported to have said: “They wanted the dinghy and started hitting Malc about the head.”
Police found the three men afloat in the southern Andaman Sea in a dinghy that had been attached to the Robertsons’ yacht. A police spokesman said they had confessed to the murder and were migrant workers. It is thought possible that they belonged to the Rohingya people, an ethnic Muslim group that has been persecuted by the Burmese junta and expelled in droves.
Television cameras caught local people throwing punches at the three suspects when they were brought onto land by police.
Mr and Mrs Robertson, from St Leonards in East Sussex, are thought to have been sailing from Phuket in Thailand, where their yacht was berthed, to the Malaysian duty-free island of Langkawi.
The Royal Thai Navy and police are thought to have called off the search for Mr Robertson’s body around 10pm local time yesterday. Police Colonel Virat Ohn-song is reported to have said: “We believe from our interview with his wife that Mr Robertson was dead before he was thrown into the water. This is bad, very bad.”
Mr and Mrs Robertson set off on a round the world voyage from Eastbourne marina on June 15, 1998. They are thought to have previously sailed around the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and much of the South Pacific.