September 22, 2015

SPECIAL REPORT: Yachties Abducted from Ocean View Resort Marina

Ocean View Resort and Marina, the site of the kidnappings.

© 2015 Ocean View Resort

Three foreign nationals and a Filipina partner were abducted late Monday night from the upscale Ocean View Resort near Davao City off the southern Philippine island of Mindinao. American cruiser Steven Tripp and his Japanese wife Kazuko Shibata-Tripp of the boat Outstripp appeared to be the original targets of the kidnappers. After being beaten about their heads, they managed to escape by diving into the water. The four that were ultimately dragged away had come to investigate the commotion.

Those taken were Canadian John Ridsdel of the catamaran Aziza and his Filipina partner Teresita Flor, Canadian Robert Hall of the vessel Renova, and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad of Wiskun.

Sherry McCampbell, who was at the marina, reports that Luc and Jacki on Sloepmouche were awake and saw the kidnappers after they grabbed John. When a kidnapper told Jacki to “Come here!” she said “No.” The kidnapper then left, perhaps intimidated by the couple’s barking dogs.

Ridsdel, 68, is the former chief operating officer of mining company TVI Resource Development Philippines, Inc., a company he still consults for. All we currently know of Hall is that he is about 50 years old. Sekkingstad, age unknown, grew up in Norway, then lived in Vancouver for a time before taking off across the Pacific on his boat in 2002. His partner and later wife was Ellen Lee Kwen, a member of the powerful family that developed the Ocean View Resort and Marina. After cruising to New Zealand in 2007, the couple came to the Philippines to be heavily involved in the development of the area. Ellen died in 2013.

According to officials, at least 11 armed men — several of whom can be seen on video leading the victims away — descended on the marina at about 11:30 p.m., overpowered the guards, and attempted to grab people from the boats farthest out on the piers. The kidnappers spoke both Tagalog and English. There were about 30 foreign nationals in the 56-boat marina at the time. One witness said that the kidnappers didn’t appear to be targeting anyone in particular, rather just going after the first and easiest targets. The kidnappers and their victims eventually left the scene in a banka-style boat. Two similar boats were later found abandoned not far away.

Freelance reporter Dean Bernardo described the abduction as “quite unusual” because the immediate area is a tourist area that has historically been quite safe. The Canadian government, on the other hand, warns against travel in the area “due to the serious threat of terrorist attacks and kidnapping.”

Samal is a short boat ride from Mindanao, the southern Philippines island plagued by violence from armed Communist groups and Muslim extremists. For nearly two decades, Abu Sayyaf — ‘Bearer of the Sword’ — an al-Qaeda-linked terror group whose leaders recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, has kidnapped dozens of foreign tourists, journalists and local representatives of other religions, demanding ransoms worth millions of dollars.

A resort security guard found a handwritten note that said “Justice for our commander: by NPA.” The New People’s Army is made up of Communist guerrillas and is also considered a terrorist organization. A local police official said the note was found 500 meters away and didn’t believe it was connected to the incident.

To further complicate the situation, Araceli Ayuste, who owns a nearby resort, says she suspects anti-development forces. Developers have turned the once-quiet island into a tourist destination visited by nearly half a million people last year. With the number of tourists exploding, local leaders have complained about forced evictions.

Back in the 1980s, big beautiful schooners were still among the most desirable offerings of Caribbean charter fleets, and a number of high-profile celebrities were often seen in popular anchorages of St.
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