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Family shocked at dream trip death

The sister-in-law of a British man who died defending his wife after attackers boarded their boat in the Caribbean has said the family is "shocked and shattered" by the brutal end to a dream holiday.

Roger Pratt, 62, a retired engineer, died and his wife Margaret was injured after three armed men climbed aboard their yacht moored off the south coast of St Lucia on Friday.

Mrs Pratt, who retired as a management consultant to go on the long-planned around-the-world holiday, celebrated her 60th birthday just days before the incident.

The couple had planned to set sail for the next stage of their journey the day before the attack, but were prevented from leaving by a bureaucratic hold-up.

Mrs Pratt's sister Jenny Riley, a teacher from Beccles, Suffolk, said the family had been left "totally shocked and shattered" by the news.

She said Mr Pratt had been preparing for the long voyage for many years, and as an engineer was meticulous in his attention to detail and extremely safety-conscious.

Mrs Riley spoke to Mrs Pratt by telephone last night and said her injuries were not life-threatening and she was recovering well. She has returned to the couple's yacht.

"She has been badly beaten up but she will pull through," she said.

"It's a shocking and tragic end to their dream and we're all coming to terms with it as best we can.

"Margaret is very strong and she's very busy, there's a lot to do.

"At the moment she is concentrating on that and that focus is helping her keep it together."

Referring to the three men held over the attack, she said: "Margeret's life has been turned upside down but ultimately these three men's lives are over as well, so it's tragic all round."

Mrs Riley and her husband Bryan visited the couple in Martinique over Christmas.

"They had been planning the trip for years and sailing across the Atlantic to explore the Carribean was Roger's dream," Mrs Riley said.

"They were both experienced sailors and had sailed dinghies and keel boats since they were children."

She added that support from the Foreign Office in London and St Lucia had been vital to Mrs Pratt.

Police are continuing to investigate what happened as officers released more details about the incident.

St Lucia police said officers were called to reports of a robbery on the Pratts' yacht, the Magnetic Attraction, while moored in Vieux Fort on the island's south coast at about midnight.

"Officers received information three armed men had boarded the vessel, and attacked and injured the occupants before they fled," a statement said.

"Within minutes of the robbers fleeing, Margaret went in search of her husband and found him floating in the nearby waters.

"Roger was retrieved and transported to St Jude Hospital via ambulance, along with his wife."

Mr Pratt was pronounced dead on arrival while Mrs Pratt was discharged after treatment.

Three men are still being detained in connection with the incident, while a post-mortem examination is due to be carried out today.

Neighbours of the Pratts in the hamlet of Moreton Paddox near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, expressed shock and disbelief at the news, describing the couple as friendly and keen sailors.

Lavinia O'Shaughnessy, who has known the couple for 15 years, said: "I just feel really upset because for something like that to happen to people who are so very nice is terrible - I wanted them to come back.

"They were going on a journey on their boat, sailing around the world.

"They rented their house out a few months ago, then went off sailing."

Mrs O'Shaughnessy said: "Margaret was very friendly - she'd pick me up at the end of the road to give me a lift into town if she saw me, she was that sort of person.

"She was very into her work.

"I really miss her, and I'm very sorry to hear about Roger."

Another couple who live a few doors from the couple's large detached house said they had a passion for sailing, and spent a great deal of time on the coast getting the boat prepared for their trip.

The man, who declined to give his name, said the couple bought a house in Norfolk - where Mrs Pratt is originally from - to work on the yacht.

He said: "I remember talking to Roger about the boat and he mentioned that it was steel-hulled.

"Sailing was their hobby, it was a real passion for them.

"I think it was May last year when Roger came around to the house to say goodbye and that they were off on their journey.

"I said to Roger 'I hope you have a good trip, and I wish you every success', and it's such a shame."

Susan Barraclough, another neighbour, said: "It's just a horrible thing to happen, it is dreadful news."

The incident has also rocked the sailing community. In a statement yesterday, the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club said it was "stunned and saddened" to hear of the death of Mr Pratt, one of its members, offering its sincere condolences to the family.

Prayers were also said for the couple at the parish church.

The vicar, the Rev John Parker, said: "They set off on the experience of a lifetime, only for them to have been set upon, it seems, by robbers in a crime that appears to have gone horribly wrong.

"Our hopes and prayers are with the family and particularly Margaret, and we wish her a speedy recovery."

Mr and Mrs Pratt set off on their global journey from Lowestoft last July, keeping family and friends at home updated on their progress through an online blog.

According to the blog, the couple were preparing to set out on the next stage of their journey from the island's western harbour town of Soufriere on Thursday, but instead sailed farther south to Fort Vieux because of an administration hold-up with port officials.

A few days earlier, on January 10, Mrs Pratt posted an entry and photos of her birthday celebrations, including dinner with friends, and said she was having "a blissful time".

She wrote: "The evening went with a swing, aided by a local rum punch with fruit juice that definitely packed a punch!

"Altogether a delightful and memorable day."

A blog entry from last November also shows the couple were alert to the dangers of the high seas, with Mr Pratt attending a boating seminar in the Canary Islands on the risks of piracy.

Both Mr and Mrs Pratt are listed as the directors of management consultancy firm Okra Associates, while she has previously worked as chief executive of St Mary's Hospital and Isle of Wight Primary Care Trust and as director of finance at Trafford Healthcare NHS Trust.


From Belfast Telegraph