Headline — 04 September 2015 — by Albert J. Ciego
3 men disappear at sea

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Sept. 3, 2015–Three Belize City men who travelled to the Turneffe Island to recover a boat for repairs last Thursday and were to return to the city that same day, have disappeared.  The men were reported missing, and they are feared dead.

       The Coast Guard reported that they began a search for Giovanni Murillo, 29, a fisherman of Nargusta Street, Belize City; Donovan Usher, 20, a fisherman of Sarstoon Street, Belize City; and Jerome Betson, 33, a fisherman of Hyde Street, on Sunday, but so far, the effort has been in vain.

       Murillo’s father told Amandala in an interview today that on Thursday, August 27, his son left on a journey to Turneffe Island to recover a boat, along with his two friends, and should have returned the same day, so they only took food and water for one day.

        Seven days later, however, the three men have not returned, and no one seems to know where they are. The men were in a red-and-green 18-foot Mexican skiff named Twista, with a 50 HP Yamaha outboard engine.

       The worried father said that on Friday afternoon, the day after his son left home, he went to the Vernon Street fish market and was told that his son and his two friends had been killed at sea.

       On Saturday, August 29, two days after the men failed to return, the family went to the Coast Guard and the police, and made a missing persons report, and on Sunday, the Coast Guard began their search.

       Murillo’s father said that the family travelled to Turneffe Island on Sunday to look for the men, but the search was fruitless. The family said that throughout the searches, they did not see the Coast Guard in the area.

       Amandala was told that the men did not take their phones with them, so there was no way they could have communicated with their loved ones if anything went wrong.

       It must be noted, however, that Giovanni Murillo is well-known to police and the Coast Guard. The April 16, 2014 edition of Amandala stated that Murillo and two others were engaged in acts of piracy on the high seas and allegedly had fired at the Belize Coast Guard, which was attempting to intercept them.

       Murillo and his friends were remanded to the Belize Central Prison after appearing in court on two counts of aggravated assault with a firearm. They all pleaded not guilty to the charges, but because the offences were committed with a firearm, bail could not be granted and they were remanded to prison until June 13.

       However, the case against the men fell apart in court, and they were released.

       The incident for which the men were charged occurred on Thursday, April 10, around 6:45 p.m. The Coast Guard was called by fishermen who said that they were being robbed of their products somewhere southeast of Middle Long Caye, which lies about 20 miles from Belize City.

       When the Coast Guard arrived in the area, they were met by a fisherman who reported to them that he had been robbed by some men who were travelling in a skiff, and a description of the skiff was given.

        A search of the area was conducted by the Coast Guard and the patrol came across a skiff which matched the description given to them by the fishermen. Three men were seen onboard the skiff.

   After a chase on the high seas, the skiff attempted to lure the Coast Guard vessel into the shallow waters of a nearby creek. When the skiff stopped “dead in the waters,” those onboard the patrol boat thought that either they had run out of fuel or had experienced engine failure.

       But as the Coast Guard vessel approached the skiff, shots rang out, prompting the Coast Guard officers to return fire.

       The skiff began making its way on the high seas once more, as if it was heading back to Middle Long Caye. That was a miscalculation on the part of the occupants of the skiff, because they were quickly out-maneuvered and the three men onboard were all apprehended.

       The Coast Guard detained Giovanni Murillo, a boat captain of 6 Nargusta Street, and two other men, who were brought to Belize City and handed over to police, who laid the two aggravated assault charges on them.

        Their blue and green 23-ft. fiberglass skiff named DANNICA was impounded and taken to the Coast Guard headquarters.

       Murillo and his friends have been dubbed “pirates at sea,” but Murillo’s father said that if they are dead, the family at least would like to recover the body so that he can be given a decent funeral.

       Donovan Usher is described as being of East Indian descent, with a light complexion and a low haircut. He is about 5 ft. 6 ins. tall, has dark brown eyes, and has a tattoo on the right side of his neck marked   “Rest In Peace Dominique.”

       Giovanni Murillo is of brown complexion, has brown eyes, is about 5 ft. 6 ins. tall, and weighs about 167 lbs. He has a low haircut and a moustache, is slightly bearded, and was last seen wearing a pair of grey ¾ Dickies pants, a white T-shirt and black Old Navy slippers.

    Jerome Betson is of dark complexion, has shoulder-length dreadlocks, is slimly built, is about 5 ft. 7 ins. tall and has the number “20” tattooed on his stomach and “Thug Life” tattooed on his right hand.

    Anyone who sees or knows the whereabouts of the men is urged to contact the nearest police station, or 911 or 0800 –TIPS.

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