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Captain of yacht killed by Rohingya pirates

4:00AM Thursday Mar 26, 2009 BANGKOK - A British man was murdered by pirates on board his yacht off southern Thailand while his wife was locked in a cabin. The body of Malcolm Robertson, 64, was thrown overboard near Koh Dong, an island about 70km west of the Satun province near the border with Malaysia, police said. Reports suggested Robertson was either beaten to death with a hammer or had his throat slit with a knife. Three Burmese men have been arrested on suspicion of murder. Apparently, Robertson had tried to stop them as they climbed on to his yacht, the Mr Bean, to steal a dinghy. Initial reports suggest that Robertson's wife, Lindy, was locked in a cabin as the three men fought her husband. When she emerged, she found blood on the deck but no sign of her husband. It remains unclear how Lindy Robertson, 60, sustained the minor injuries for which she is now being treated in hospital, although a scuffle with the fishermen is the likeliest explanation. She is reported to have said: "They wanted the dinghy and started hitting Malc about the head." Police captain Suparak Pongkarnjana said the attackers forced Lindy Robertson to steer the yacht towards shore. They fled in the dinghy when they saw Thai national park employees passing by in a boat. Police found the three men afloat in the Robertsons' dinghy about 1km from the yacht. A police spokesman said they had confessed to the murder and were migrant workers. It is thought possible that they belonged to the Rohingya people, an ethnic Muslim group that has been persecuted by the Myanmar junta and expelled in droves. Television cameras caught local people throwing punches at the three suspects when they were brought on to land by police, who were forced to drag them away before further trouble erupted. The Robertsons, from East Sussex, are thought to have been sailing from Phuket in Thailand to the Malaysian island of Langkawi. The Royal Thai Navy and police are thought to have called off the search for Robertson's body. Police Colonel Virat Ohn-song is reported to have said: "We believe from our interview with his wife that Mr Robertson was dead before he was thrown into the water. This is bad. Very bad." The couple set off on a round-the-world voyage from Eastbourne marina in June 1998. They are thought to have previously sailed Mr Bean around the Mediterranean, Caribbean, and much of the South Pacific, including Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Vanuatu. The waters in which the couple were sailing do not have a reputation for being dangerous and are usually extremely busy with holidaying yachts. Piracy along the Thai-Malaysian coast was a major hazard in the 1990s but a recent clampdown was thought to have reduced the threat substantially. - INDEPENDENT, AP