Dream voyage across the Atlantic to Caribbean ends in tragedy with murder of Roger Pratt in St Lucia
17:23 20 January 2014
A couple, one of whom was killed and another who is fighting for her life after being attacked while on the sailing trip of a lifetime, were planning to move to Norfolk once the voyage was over.
Roger and Margaret Pratt were planning to rekindle their links with the county following their retirement – but today, friends and family are coming to terms with the tragic death of Mr Pratt in St Lucia.
Three armed men burst on to the couple’s yacht, Magnetic Attraction, attacked the couple and fled.
They left a “badly beaten” Mrs Pratt, with her devoted husband – who tried to protect his wife from the robbers – “floating in the nearby waters,” according to a spokesman for the Royal Saint Lucia police force.
Tributes to “respected” sailor
Sailing clubs across Norfolk and Suffolk have paid glowing tributes to a “respected” sailor, who was very well-known across the region.
Flags were flying at half mast yesterday at the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht club in Lowestoft (RNSYC), and at the Norwich Frostbite Sailing Club in Thorpe St Andrew, as a mark of respect following the “tragic” death of Roger Pratt.
Mr Pratt and his wife Margaret had been members of the RNSYC club for “several years”, according to the club commodore, Anthony Knights.
He said: “The club was stunned to hear of the tragic death of member Roger Pratt aboard his yacht the Magnetic Attraction in the Caribbean.”
Mr Knights, club officers and members yesterday sent “their sincere condolences to Margaret and all of the family” at this tragic time.
Mr and Mrs Pratt’s yacht
had been moored at the yacht club in Lowestoft for more
than a year while the couple prepared for the voyage.
They left Lowestoft last July for their dream round-the-world sailing trip, navigating the English coastline before heading to the Algarve and on to the Caribbean.
Mr Knights said: “I used to sail against Roger in Enterprise dinghies in the 1970s and have been in touch with a number of our members who used to sail both against and with Roger across East Anglia and the wider meeting circuit.
“He was a very, very steady guy – a good sailor. He was certainly a good and respected dinghy sailor who would be well-known in the East Anglian sailing community.”
He added: “It’s a dreadful thing to happen. Everyone at the club is shocked and saddened by these terrible events.”
Last night EDP sailing correspondent, Alan Mallett, said Roger and Margaret “have very strong local links”
and they were “very well-known” within the sailing community.
Mr Mallett said: “You have to go back about 40 years, when Roger was living in Hellesdon I believe.
“He was a member of the Norwich Frostbite Sailing Club’s Enterprise team – a team sailing Enterprise dinghies – in the 1970s. They were very successful in a number of RYA events.”
Mr Mallett added that despite moving away from the area, the mast colours of the Norwich Frostbite club were flying at half mast yesterday.
Yesterday, the Norfolk and Suffolk sailing community paid tribute to Mr Pratt, and Margaret’s sister, Jenny Riley, expressed her disbelief at the horrific events.
Mrs Riley, from north Suffolk, said: “We are totally shocked and shattered by the tragic news that Margaret and Roger were attacked by robbers in St Lucia on Friday night. Roger had been preparing Magnetic Attraction for this voyage over several years and as an experienced engineer, his attention to detail was second to none.
“The boat was prepared immaculately for world-wide cruising – it was his pride and joy and he was very safety conscious.
They had been planning this trip for a long time and in recent years had gained deep sea sailing experience by cruising extensively on the south coast and around Europe,” she added. “To sail across the Atlantic and explore the Caribbean was Roger’s dream.”
After retiring from her job in Warwickshire last summer, Mr and Mrs Pratt set off from Lowestoft last July. They sailed across the Atlantic in December with two other family members, and were in Martinique for Christmas, before sailing on to St Lucia in time for the new year.
Mrs Riley, who with her husband Bryan had spent Christmas with Mr and Mrs Pratt in the Caribbean, said: “They were both experienced sailors and had sailed dinghies and keel boats since they were children.
Mrs Riley added: “My family come from the Broads, and they met sailing in Norfolk. They arranged the whole trip – it was a life-long dream. Roger had been preparing the boat for about 12 years, getting it ready to go.
“Roger and Margaret had sailed from Lowestoft and my husband Bryan and another family member had flown to Lanzarote and then sailed with them to Martinique, as they spent 23 days sailing across the Atlantic.”
The brutal attack happened days after Mrs Pratt’s 60th birthday, which was spent celebrating with friends.
St Lucian police said three men remained in custody, but no arrests had been made as yet.
The cause of Mr Pratt’s death has not been established and a post-mortem examination is due to take place today. Mrs Pratt has been released from hospital and is now helping detectives.
Mrs Riley added: “My sister has been quite badly beaten up, I don’t think she will be home for a while. We can’t really believe what is happening. It is a tragic, shattering end to their dream. It’s just so terrible, words can not describe it. Roger was really dedicated, preparing for a trip of a lifetime – it’s shattered dreams and shattered lives.”
She added: “Representatives from the foreign office in London and their colleagues in St Lucia have been brilliant and are giving Margaret plenty of support at this most difficult time.”
Last night, Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: “It is horrific that a journey that started from Lowestoft last summer has ended in such tragedy and I offer my deepest condolences to Roger Pratt’s family at this difficult time and pray that Mrs Pratt makes a full and speedy recovery.”