Saturday 18 November 2017

'Bucket list' teacher murdered by Amazon pirates 'refused help from locals as she canoed dangerous stretch of river'

Adventurer Emma Kelty, 43, from London, was last heard from on Wednesday September 13
Adventurer Emma Kelty, 43, from London, was last heard from on Wednesday September 13

Nicola Harley

British canoeist Emma Kelty rejected an offer of safe passage through dangerous pirate infested waters prior to her murder over fears she was losing too much time in her bid to complete her quest.

The 43-year-old adventurer, who gave up her job as a headteacher to become a full-time explorer, was murdered in her tent during her mission to canoe solo 4,000 miles down the Amazon.

Brazilian police said Miss Kelty had been shot and killed by robbers - known locally as ‘water rats’ - who then dumped her body in the river.

Prior to her death she stopped in the village of Sao Joao de Catua on the Solimoes river before embarking on the feared stretch of river after Coari, 100km upstream.

Resident Miliane Vincente told Mailonline they had warned her of the dangers.

"We saw her passing by and called her into the community. I told her it was very dangerous, that it was full of drug trafficking and terrorists," she said.

"I took her to my house and gave her water to drink, and we talked as she showed me her photos. I told her to go with us in our boat to Coari so she wouldn't be in danger.

"I still remember he last words: I can't stay, the more time I stay here the more time I'm losing. For me to succeed I have to do this route. Your hearts are very kind, but I have to carry on."

After the meeting, Mrs Kelty later posted on Facebook: "So in or near coari (100km away) i will have my boat stolen and i will be killed too. Nice."

Investigators had tried to find her after her emergency alert sounded, which pinpointed her exact location, and they launched a search operation.

It later became apparent she had not triggered the emergency alarm and the 'SOS' button was in fact pressed by one of her killers who was trying to work out how to use the device they had stolen, an hour and a half after her death.

Police have now recovered the GPS device, as well as a mobile phone and a memory card, which the gang of seven 'pirates' sold to local villagers after killing her.

The GPS signal sent at 10pm last Wednesday night led investigators to the riverside village of Lauro Sodre, 150 miles west of Manaus, and a manhunt which has brought about the arrest of three men accused of her murder.

Ringleader Evanilson Gomes da Costa, 24, died Wednesday after being shot by rival gangsters.

And one local who knows da Costa - known by his nicknamed Baia - said the gangster spoke to him in the early hours of the morning following Ms Kelty's death last Wednesday night, revealing what they had done.

The man, who didn't want to be named, said: "He said he was one of four men. The woman had put up her tent on the beach in exactly the area where the Colombia drug traffickers go through, and which is crawling with pirates who wait for them to arrive to attack.

"These men aren't pirates though, they are just drug users. We are all shocked that these men from our community did such a terrible thing to this woman.

"When the men saw her tent they thought it belonged to a Colombian with drugs, so they started firing from about 50 metres away. The woman was hit in the arm. She started waving frantically and screaming for help."

He said that when the four men saw that she was a woman they attacked her and, still believing she was carrying drugs, cut off her hair with a knife while demanding to know where the drugs were.

According to the man, one of the group then slit her through with the knife, before all four men "sexually abused her".

He said they then dragged her body to the river and dumped it in the fast-moving water.

He said: "The men fled into the forest after we all found out what they had done. We provided the police with the details and their identities. We're all disgusted by what they have done."

Telegraph.co.uk

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