Couple on dream holiday missing after escaped prisoners hijacked their catamaran

Authorities in the eastern Caribbean are scouring waters in the region in hopes of finding a missing couple who were aboard their catamaran when police say it was hijacked by three escaped prisoners from Grenada.

Police have said that Ralph Hendry and Kathy Brandel are presumed dead. The search for them began on February 21 after someone discovered their catamaran abandoned on the shores of St. Vincent and alerted authorities.

Police say the three prisoners escaped from a police station on February 18 and hijacked the catamaran a day later.

Authorities said the prisoners then illegally entered the southwest coast of St. Vincent on February 19 and docked the boat. Two days later, the three men were arrested along the island’s northwest coast.

Here’s what to know about the case:

Why were the couple targeted?

It’s unclear why the escaped prisoners hijacked the couple’s catamaran, but it was moored at Grand Anse beach, near to the police station where the three men escaped.

Police believe the men hijacked the catamaran with the couple aboard and then allegedly threw them into the water while traveling to St. Vincent, which is located north of Grenada.

St. Vincent Grenada The yacht ‘Simplicity’ that officials say was hijacked by three escaped prisoners with two people aboard

(Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

They have noted that there were signs of violence aboard the catamaran.

Who are the escaped prisoners?

Police in Grenada have identified the escaped prisoners as Trevon Robertson, a 19-year-old unemployed man; Abita Stanislaus, a 25-year-old farmer; and Ron Mitchell, a 30-year-old sailor.

All were charged a couple of months ago with one count of robbery with violence. Mitchell also was charged with one count of rape, three counts of attempted rape and two counts of indecent assault and causing harm.

Grenada prisoner split Ron Mitchell, Trevon Robertson, and Atiba Stanislaus

(RSVG Police Force)

Vannie Curwen, Grenada’s assistant police commissioner, has said the men had been placed in a holding cell rather than in jail because a judge had not yet ruled whether they would be released on bail.

Who are the couple?

The Salty Dawg Sailing Association has described Brandel and Hendry as veteran cruisers and long-time members who were “warm-hearted and capable.” It noted that Brandel served on the association’s board for two years.

The association said the couple had sailed their boat in the 2023 Caribbean Rally from Hampton, Virginia to Antigua and planned to spend the winter cruising the eastern Caribbean. A GoFundMe donation page stated that Brandel had become a first-time grandmother.

Family members of the couple have not returned calls and messages for comment.

Have the escaped prisoners been charged?

Police in Grenada and St. Vincent have provided limited information about the case of the missing couple, noting that the investigation is ongoing, though they have said the couple is presumed dead.

Authorities have not yet shared any specific evidence linking the three men to the couple’s disappearance. St. Vincent police say the men have been cooperating in the investigation.

The men pleaded guilty this week to immigration-related charges, and are scheduled to be sentenced on those counts in early March.

Investigators from Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines stand aboard the yacht ‘Simplicity’

(Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Authorities have not said whether prosecutors in St. Vincent or Grenada would pursue the case involving the couple.

Grenada Police Commissioner Don McKenzie said the attorney generals and prosecutors on both islands “are in discussions.”

Meanwhile, Grenada police sent a team of five officials to help with the investigation in nearby St. Vincent.

What next?

Police in Grenada have launched an investigation into how the men were able to escape from their holding cell.

McKenzie has said the police station should have been secure enough to prevent such an escape, and that authorities are looking into whether it was a “system failure” or a “slip up.”

McKenzie has said no officers have resigned or been disciplined, although one supervisor at the station has been transferred to another location “to ensure a thorough investigation in this matter.”

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