Briton's killers escape murder charge

Wife hears case cannot go on until husband's body is found, despite confession
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The Independent Online

The widow of a British man beaten to death by Burmese pirates told yesterday of her disbelief that murder charges cannot be brought against his suspected killers.

Linda Robertson, 57, was informed by authorities in Thailand that the failure to find her husband's body after he was thrown overboard during the attack on board the couple's yacht meant proceedings for murder could not be brought against the three men arrested for the killing.

The trio of migrant fishermen, aged 17 to 19, have confessed to beating to death 64-year-old Malcolm Robertson with a hammer when they tried to rob his 44ft yacht, Mr Bean. The attack took place on Tuesday morning close to Bintang Island, 600 miles south of the Thai capital, Bangkok.

Mrs Robertson, from Hastings, East Sussex, spent nearly 10 hours testifying before two courts yesterday, recounting step-by-step how she heard her husband being attacked before treading in his blood on the deck of the boat as she tried to escape her captors.

Under Thai law, murder charges can only be brought if a body is found.

Despite three days of searching by authorities and fishermen, Mr Robertson's remains have not been found.

His family had their hopes raised yesterday when the Foreign Office released a statement suggesting a corpse had been recovered, but Thai police later said this had been a false alarm.

Mrs Robertson, who had been spending the winter months sailing around Thailand with her husband, said: "I can't believe the decision by prosecutors. I am in a state of total disbelief.

"These young men were almost caught red-handed. They confessed to everything. The police even have the bloodstained murder weapon.

"Yet there is no murder charge, not even a manslaughter charge. It's incredible." The three fishermen, who have been charged with theft, assault and kidnap, have claimed they boarded the Britons' boat after they were held as captive labourers on a Thai fishing boat and escaped when they saw Mr Bean at anchor nearby.

After being confronted by Mr Robertson, who owned a chain of coffee shops in and around Hastings, the men beat him around the head with a hammer.

Thai police believe the attackers then slit the businessman's throat before pushing him into the sea while his wife was tightly bound with ropes.

Mrs Robertson, who was held captive for 10 hours, described how the group then proceeded to have a "noisy picnic" on the yacht while the youngest attacker, a 17-year-old orphan called Ko, played with her mobile phone.

She added that she believed her husband's determination to confront the robbers had cost him his life.

She said: "He was not the sort of man that would just sit back and let things happen. I really wish he had been."

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