One dead, three missing after Corentyne pirate attack

-five in custody

One fisherman is now dead, while three of his crew mates are missing after they were attacked on Friday night by five pirates armed with cutlasses in Corentyne waters.

The police have since arrested five men and detained a boat.

Dead is Hemchand Sookdeo, 45, called ‘Dread,’ a father of five, of Number 55 Village, Corentyne, Berbice. The three fishermen who are missing are Boyo (only name given), Dochan Sukra known as ‘Butcher,’ 54, and Dhanpaul Ramphal, also known as ‘Sunil,’ 38, who all hail from the Upper Corentyne.

The attack occurred around 11pm on Friday in the Lower Shell Area, Nickerie, Suriname, where the men were aboard the now missingRosana 664, which was captained by Seepersaud Persaud, 43, of Number 78 Village, Corentyne.

Seepersaud Persaud
Seepersaud Persaud

With reddened eyes, Persaud yesterday told Stabroek News that they were out at sea around 11pm on Friday, when another boat approached and five men boarded their vessel. They were ordered to go into their cabin. “Dem use abbi boat to hijack dem rest boat,” he said. “Abbi go near two other boats and dem tek way de fish and dem make me drive to shore. When me drive to shore, them tie up three a me workmen and one a he workman come and check the engine and say de man a call me in front. When me go in front, he a tell me fa throw me workmen overboard. And when me say me na go throw dem, he shove me over and gone with the four of them,” he added.

The Guyana Police Force, in a press release issued yesterday, said the armed men boarded the  boat and they took away two 48 HP outboard motor engines, tied up the four crew members and threw Persaud overboard. He was subsequently rescued by the crew of another fishing vessel in the area after drifting for some time.

While at sea, Persaud managed to contact persons at the Number 66 Fishing Complex and informed them of the attack and gave a description of the boat that was used by the perpetrators, the police said.

During yesterday morning, acting on information received, the police went to Number 65 Village foreshore, Corentyne, where they saw a boat matching the description given. Five men who were aboard have been arrested and are in police custody assisting with the investigations. The Suriname authorities have also been informed of the attack.

Persaud was taken to the Skeldon Hospital for treatment. He was bare-footed and badly sunburnt. To survive after he was tossed overboard, he said, “Me balance, balance till me reach one boat, three hours after.”

He remained on that fishing boat until another boat came to pick him up. That boat had Sookdeo’s body inside.

Sookdeo’s eldest son, Tejnauth Sookdeo, told this newspaper that yesterday morning his mother received a call from the boat owner, who informed her that his father had been tied up and thrown overboard after the boat was hijacked.

Tejnauth said his father had been a fisherman since the age of 11.

According to Tejnauth, his father’s body was found when his youngest brother, who works on another vessel, and his crew were pulling up their seine.

Dhanpaul Ramphal
Dhanpaul Ramphal

Tejnauth, who received his father’s lifeless body at Number 63 Beach, explained that his father had a chop wound to the back of his head. He also said that his father’s fingers were crooked. He suggested that when his father was thrown overboard, he might have grabbed on to the seine in an attempt to save himself.

He said piracy is frequent in the area and the attack was not surprising to him since he would usually warn his father. “It’s like all I know about piracy I does tell my father that someday something will go wrong but he never listened,” the grieving son related.

Sookdeo’s body is currently at the mortuary at the Skeldon Hospital.

Widow Basmattie Sookdeo said that her husband had been a fisherman all his life.

 Boat that was detained at the Number 65 koker
Boat that was detained at the Number 65 koker

Meanwhile, Ramphal’s wife said that her husband is a cane harvester and has only been out to sea two times before with a small boat. She explained that Ramphal went to sea, this time with a big boat, since it is “out of crop” season at the estate.

The owners of the other two boats that were attacked by the pirates said they had contacted the captains of the boats and were told that the boats were damaged and the seines were still out at sea. However, the fishermen were expected to return by last night.

One owner said, “Dem tell me that dem pirates throw gasoline on them and threaten tuh bun dem.”

Commander of ‘B’ Division Ian Amsterdam, who was present at the hospital, confirmed to Stabroek News that five men had been arrested in connection with the attack and were assisting with the investigation. He also disclosed that a boat has been detained in connection with the attack as well.

Last month, the Guyana Police Force credited the decline in pirate attacks to the resuscitation of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Piracy and the Inter-Agency Maritime Surveillance Programme. A release from the force had said that these have led to a number of initiatives which have “impacted positively” in the fight against piracy.

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