Murder riddle in Algarve waters.jpg

Murder riddle in Algarve waters

A CAPSIZED trimaran, named the Intermezzo, was sighted off the coast of Sagres last Thursday morning (August 17), resulting in a large scale search and rescue by Portuguese emergency services. The search ultimately resulted in tragedy as one of the three crew members was found dead, tied up inside one of the boat’s overturned hulls. As the shocking events unfolded last Thursday and Friday, the other two rescued crew members were arrested for the suspected murder of 60-year-old Frenchman, Andrés Le Floch.

According to Correio da Manhã newspaper, an alert was raised at 9.10am on Thursday as the Spanish Navy tanker, Sichem Fenol, sighted an overturned boat with a raft drifting nearby with two people onboard, 50 kilometres from Cape St. Vincent, Sagres. By 9.41am, the first of the two sailors had been rescued by the Spanish boat, while the Cisne, a rescue ship based at Portimão, aided the search. At 10.35am, the second sailor was rescued and it then became apparent that the third crew member was missing. Força Aérea Portuguesa scrambled their specialist rescue helicopter, the EH-101 Merlin, from their base in Montijo, south of Lisbon, to scour the waters from above, while divers attempted to enter the sea. Waves of up to three-and-a-half metres made it too dangerous for divers to enter the boat, but they were able to get close enough to knock around the outside of the structure, but received no response.

Portimão sent another boat, the Dragão, to take over the evening search, as Lisbon sent the Jacinto Cândido to continue looking into the night. The military craft Aviocar was also sent from Sintra, near Lisbon, to aid the night search and light up the area. The marines also provided support as well as preventing any nautical activity, so as not to disturb the area surrounding the boat, which had remained on the surface after capsizing.

It was not until sunrise on Friday morning that divers were able to enter the trimaran, although the conditions were still considered dangerous. The body was discovered in one of the three hulls of the boat, but it was not possible to revive it.

According to the same newspaper report, the two rescued sailors, Thierry Beille, 48 and Corine Caspar, 51, were airlifted to the Hospital Curry Cabral in Lisbon, suffering from hypothermia. They were released later the same evening, however, in a shocking turn of events, were arrested by the Polícia Judiciária on suspicion of killing the third sailor, said to be the owner of the boat.

In custody, the two suspects confessed that they had tied up the other crew member, because, allegedly, he was going to rape the female crew member. On Friday, they were transported to Lagos Court, where they were ordered to be detained on the charge of suspected homicide. They were escorted from Lagos under heavy police presence at 9.15pm, and left the court protesting their innocence and crying for help. Witnesses heard them saying that the boat capsizing was “an accident”. The police had to use force to get one of the accused into the police van, after which the pair was transported to their respective prisons – Beille is being held at Portimão prison, while Caspar is detained at Odemira prison.

The body of Andrés Le Floch was transported to the mortuary at Hospital do Barlavento Algarvio in Portimão for an autopsy. According to the TVI channel, the results of this showed that there was no water in the lungs, an indicator that Le Floch did not die from drowning, but rather inferring his death was caused by other factors.

Duarte Nuno Viera, president of the Legal Medicine Institute, stated: “The autopsy was clear and gave very useful indications for the prosecution.” The Intermezzo is docked at Portimão port and has been overturned to allow onboard investigations to progress.

Another mysterious twist to the case is the relationship between the three sailors. Francisco Pagarete, the lawyer for the two accused, confirmed that the two were not in fact brother and sister. They had previously stated that they were related and explained that they had different surnames as one of them was adopted. Both are of French nationality and claim to be information technicians. The lawyer further stated that the two were on holiday and had started a recreational cruise along the Algarve coast.

The detainees were visited on Tuesday by a member of the French Embassy, accompanied by their lawyer, who declared that “at the moment, there is no basis for an appeal for the defendants”. Beille already has a criminal record, spending three months in jail due to a dispute with neighbours.

The family of Le Floch, partner Danielle Bariou and her daughter Veronique, arrived in the Algarve last Monday to identify the body.