A murder investigation has been launched after a British yachtsman was found fatally injured on a burned life raft in the Caribbean.
Police on the island of St Vincent said sailing instructor John Garner, 53, was found by the Coastguard after reports of a yacht on fire about 15 miles out to sea at about midday on Wednesday. The Gibraltar-registered yacht, the Asante, is believed to have sunk before they arrived.
Heidi Hukkelaas, a Norwegian woman who had been travelling with Mr Garner, was named as a “person of interest” in the investigation by St Vincent’s police commissioner Michael Charles. She is believed to be Mr Garner’s girlfriend.
“We are treating the death as suspicious and are looking at all lines of inquiry,” Mr Charles said.
“We suspect foul play and will investigate the matter fully. Miss Hukkelaas is a person of interest and as with every murder investigation we have to look at everyone and everything and will leave no stones unturned.”
Mr Garner was found with injuries to his head and both legs, The Jamaica Observer newspaper reported. He was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.
In addition to the raft, debris and an oil spill were found near the place where police believe the yacht sank.
Police said Miss Hukkelaas had flown into St Vincent and the Grenadines on 19 January and had permission to stay until 19 April. She is not thought to have left the island through an airport or seaport.
A friend in Norway told The Daily Mail that Mr Garner was a former physical trainer for British special forces and had several children and grandchildren.
The friend said Mr Garner, who was divorced, and Miss Hukkelaas were in a relationship, adding that she had warned him not to go to St Vincent because the risk of being robbed.
“It is very shocking news. He was a very nice man. He loved his yacht, Asante, and he was meticulous about the way he kept it,” the friend added.
“He had a military attitude towards things and was a strict sailing instructor … He is what you would call an English gentleman.”