Eaten by a cannibal? Mystery of a sailor's Pacific adventure

A round-the-world yachtsman who was killed on an idyllic island in the South Pacific is believed by police to have been eaten by a cannibal.

Stefan Ramin and his girlfriend, Heike Dorsch, set sail in 2008. They had been idling through the South Seas for several months when they made landfall at Nuku Hiva, part of the Marquesas group of islands about 1,000 miles north-east of Tahiti.

Mr Ramin, a 40-year-old business adviser from the small town of Haselau in north-west Germany, had a love of travelling, sailing, surfing and diving. Nuku Hiva, the largest of the islands, set in a turquoise blue ocean, offered all that and more.

Quite what happened to Mr Ramin after he made landfall at the French Polynesian island last month is the subject of a police investigation. What is known is that he accepted an invitation to go on a traditional goat hunt in the forest with a guide named Henry Haiti. The guide returned alone from the island's interior and told Ms Dorsch, 37, that her boyfriend had been in an accident and needed help. As she rushed to her boyfriend's aid, Mr Haiti allegedly grabbed her, tied her to a tree and sexually assaulted her. Eventually she freed herself and managed to alert the authorities.

Ashes believed to be those of Mr Ramin were later found in a valley by a team of 22 police officers. Among the blackened remains scattered around the site of the campfire were human bones, teeth and metal fillings. Fearing that Mr Ramin might have been the victim of a cannibalistic attack, soldiers joined police in the search for Mr Haiti. He remains at large.

The German newspaper Bild reported that Mr Haiti was being treated as a "suspected cannibal". Quoting sources on the island it added: "Ashes from the fire are distributed over several square metres. In it are bones, dentures and an artificial denture with charred metal. It smells of burned meat."

A spokesman for the German government said that German police were in contact with local authorities. French Polynesian legal sources suggested the victim was probably murdered by a cannibal for his flesh, but emphasised that investigations, including DNA tests on the ashes, were still being carried out.

Hundreds of years ago, tribal warriors who died in battle were devoured by their enemies in an effort to draw on their strength and power. Nuku Hiva has known much slaughter over the centuries. Cannibalism continued in the South Pacific well into the l9th century.

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