Mystery deepens over body found on burnt out liferaft

Suspicious circumstances surround the death of a British yachtsman who was initially thought to have been killed following a gas explosion while cruising in the Caribbean. John Garner, 53, was found dead on a burned-out liferaft after his 49ft Jeanneau Sun Odyssey Asante was destroyed by fire five miles from Bucamente Bay in the isle of St Vincent.

Mr Garner, who had dual nationality, was sailing the £180,000 Gibraltar-registered boat which had been up for sale for £1 just a few months ago. Industry sources are saying the purchase was at the centre of a tax avoidance scheme.

Police in St Vincent meanwhile have launched a murder investigation and are seeking his Norwegian partner Heidi Hukkelaas for questioning.

First on the scene was Kay Wilson and a dive team from St Vincent she said it looked like a propane explosion. She said: ‘My team and I were diving off the coast at Bambereax when we saw flames. We responded immediately, when we arrived on the scene the boat was raised to the water line and sank shortly after.

Unfortunately the captain did not survive, he was floating in the water approx 200 yards from the burning vessel. We were able to secure his ‘grab bag’ which we found floating some distance from vessel amongst debris from the boat. Other vessels responded, and the coast guard arrived within minutes of our arrival. A member of my dive team stayed with the deceased until the coast guard took over at the scene. Local fishermen from Bagga also came to the scene and assisted with the search and recovery.’

A Yachting Monthly reader in St Vincent told YM: ‘I had dinner with John and his wife Heidi about three weeks ago when I passed through Bequia.

‘Heidi planned to return to Norway on 25th and friends in Bequia tell me she did in fact leave.

‘John was then intending to sail single handed to Antigua and this looks as if this is what he did. Sailing north out of Bequia is a glorious beam reach for about 15 miles then as yacht gets behind St Vincent you lose the wind. This is where John would have started his engine.’