The 54-foot steel-hulled vessel Zangano hit the headlines in October last year when it arrived from American Samoa minus a woman crew member, understood to be Lissette Brito, a 44-year-old Venezuelan woman.
Brito’s mystery disappearance sparked a police investigation, with owner and skipper Alex Roehrs telling investigators he had looked for her for a couple of hours before getting too low on fuel to continue the search.
Now looking the worse for wear, with much of its equipment removed and its blue paint peeling, the Australian-registered yacht was brought into Avatiu by owner Alex Roehrs back in September last year, crashing into a moored ship in the process.
Police spent months investigating the case of the missing woman which came up empty-handed and eventually cleared Roehrs to leave Cook Islands.
While he was under invcstigation, Roehrs is understood to have been hired to do some IT work for the BTIB but there have been no answers from the BTIB board as to whether he somehow acquired a work permit. Neither has there been any explanation as to how he acquired a consultancy job in a government department with easy access to sensitive documents.
In February this year, Roehrs took the Zangano out of Avatiu harbour, then called for emergency assistance saying he had run into a submerged object about 24 nautical miles out to sea.
When the police patrol boat Te Kukupa came to his rescue, Roehrs told the crew to just let the vessel sink. He said it was uninsured and not worth saving.
However, Maritime Police officers attached a cable and began to pump water out of the Zangano, enabling it to reach port. It was then discovered stopcocks had been opened and hoses cut to allow water in.
A volunteer firefighter later told CINews Roehrs had deliberately tried to sink his own vessel.
Within days of that story being published, Roehrs had sold the yacht to local businessman Keith Christian in return for an airline ticket, understood to be to Zantiago in Chile, and left the island. Nothing has been heard of him since.
In May, Christian told CI News he had sold the boat and the new owner was coming in a few months’ time to collect her. He said the yacht had a price tag of $25,000.
“The Zangano will be pulled out of the water shortly and I have dug a hole there so it will be sitting at the right height for guy to go and do some work on her.”
“It’s a good value yacht for the buyer. It was cheap. He’ll do alright out of it.”
Last week CI News asked Ports Authority chief executive Nooroa (Bim) Tou whether the yacht was likely to be removed before the start of the cyclone season in November.
Tou said Christian planned to lift the vessel out of the water and move it to his yard until the buyer was able to carry out some repairs.
“The Harbour Master will ensure the yacht is removed immediately from the harbour before the cyclone season starts.”
When CI News asked Christian about the yacht’s future, his reply was brief: “Not interested in commenting.”
Meanwhile, retired Australian police officer Rod Henderson is continuing his investigation into the mystery disappearance of Lissette Brito from the yacht Zangano while on a voyage to Rarotonga last year.
The known facts behind her disappearance were explained in a series of feature stories in CI News earlier this year. However, in spite of having been quoted at one stage as saying he was happy local police did all they could to get to the bottom of the mystery, Henderson is determined to pursue a deeper investigation into the incident.
Henderson told CINews earlier this year he had never met Roehrs face-to-face but did phone and ask if he could talk to him.
“He refused an interview and said if anything was printed at all, he would sue. He was very, very defensive.
“I thought it was rather odd for someone who may have been in grief because of losing a passenger at sea.”
Henderson said: “Roehrs told police he looked for the missing woman for a couple of hours. I find that astounding if that is the case. The excuse he gave to the authorities was that he was low on fuel. But we have a sailing yacht here.
It doesn’t need fuel to search under sail!” - CS/ RM