Murder on the high seas: fishing boat crew 47 days at sea with alleged killer locked in hold

A man was arrested when a fishing boat docked in Kaohsiung, 47 days after he is suspected of stabbing a fellow crewman to death on the Taiwanese-flagged vessel while operating in the Indian Ocean.

The Criminal Investigation Bureau revealed yesterday, Tuesday, June 20, that an investigation was launched after it was reported that a Vietnamese crew member on the Taiwanese fishing vessel Fengguo No. 616 had stabbed an Indonesian crew member to death during an argument while the ship was around 675 nautical miles southeast of Cape Town, South Africa on April 28.

According to the investigation, the 43-year-old Vietnamese man hid in a storage room following the incident, and the captain of the boat, also a Vietnamese national, locked the hatch. According to a Liberty Times report, the suspect was not only locked up for the crew’s safety, but also to prevent retaliation from other Indonesian crew members. The boat was crewed by 18 Vietnamese nationals, and 7 Indonesians.

Taiwan Coast Guard Administration and the Kaohsiung City Police Department formed a joint task force and reported the case to the Kaohsiung District Prosecutor’s Office for investigation.

The ship docked at Mauritius, where officials allowed them to resupply, but refused to investigate the case, as the murder had happened on the high seas on a Taiwanese-flagged boat, and was not in their jurisdiction. While docked in Mauritius, a member of Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau stationed as liaison officer in South Africa boarded the ship to collect evidence.

In the meantime, the Vietnamese suspect remained locked in the hold, refusing to hand over the murder weapon. The Fengguo No. 616 departed Mauritius on May 16, and was met at sea and escorted back to Taiwan by two Taiwanese Coast Guard vessels, finally docking at the coast guard wharf in the Port of Kaohsiung on June 14.

Officers of the Criminal Investigation Bureau, armed with shields and batons, boarded the Fengguo No.616, and video released to the public showed the officers dragging the suspect out of the hold and arresting him.

The body of the victim was taken from the ship’s freezer, and a forensics examination showed that he had been stabbed 7 times, with wounds concentrated on the face and head, and the fatal wound being a single stab to the heart.

After interrogation by the District Prosecutor, the suspect admitted to the crime, and the court approved a detention order requested by the prosecutor.

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