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Pirates kill New Zealander off Panama. Officials en route to pay respects

Alan Culverwell, center, died after being attacked by pirates on a boat in Panama. His wife Derryn and one of their children were also injured. Photo / File

PortandTerminal.com, May 21, 2019

Panama City, Panama – Two senior officials from the office of the Panama President are en-route to New Zealand to pay their respects to the family of a New Zealander shot dead by pirates earlier this month.

Alan Culverwell was killed by pirates who invaded his family’s boat earlier this month while it was docked off the Guna Yala region, on Panama’s northern coastline.

The 60-year-old’s wife Derryn was also slashed with a machete in the attack, while their daughter received a knock to the head. Their young son was uninjured but traumatised.

What happened?

It was supposed to be the journey of a lifetime for the adventurous family of New Zealanders. They bought their 65-foot boat pictured above in Florida and planned on taking up to two years to sail it back to their home in New Zealand. The family had intended to take the boat through the Panama Canal as part of their trip home.

Pirates boarded the vessel belonging to Alan Culverwell late at night while he and his family were in the Guna Yala region of Panama in the north of the country. 

The family heard a noise on the roof of the vessel and when Culverwell went to see what it was he was shot and then his wife, Derryn Culverwell, was attacked with a machete. Culverwell’s sister Derryn Hughes told the New Zealand Herald her brother had been shot at “very close range” with a shotgun. It is also understood one of their children suffered minor injuries. 

After attacking the family the pirates stole an outboard engine and fled the scene.

The latest

Three men have since been arrested over his death and have appeared in court in the city of Colon.

Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela apologised to the family on local television at the time and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Panama Republic’s Honorary Consul in New Zealand, lawyer Gregory Thwaite, today said the president was so moved by the events he had sent two senior staff from his office to New Zealand to pay their respects.

Piracy in the region is on the increase, driven in large part by poverty, desperation and opportunism by the gangs who sponsor the pirates.

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