YACHT OWNER SHOCKED TO FIND MISSING VESSEL IN COOKS

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Boat was to be sold to missing Kiwi accused of sex crimes

By Eric Parnis

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Feb. 3, 2012) – The owner of the yacht Bonny says he reacted in disbelief when he found out about the fate of his boat, which had gone missing from New Zealand with an accused sex offender late last year.

Six weeks later, it turned up in the Cook Islands unannounced with its skipper, who is wanted on 26 sex related charges including the rape of a child, complaining of heart troubles.

The skipper disappeared off the yacht about 20 nautical miles from Rarotonga on January 3 after again complaining of heart problems.

Since then, Bonny has been moored in Avatiu harbor as police in the Cook Islands conducted a search for its owner.

That search eventually led them, through New Zealand police, to Bonny’s owner – Auckland man Nick Diggle.

Diggle said he has since been in discussions with police in the Cook Islands and New Zealand to arrange for the return of Bonny. He said he plans to have someone sail the yacht back after the hurricane season is over, and anticipates that someone will be here in April to bring it home to New Zealand.

If all goes according to plan, it would mean Bonny would return home five months after Diggle last saw her.

Diggle lost contact in mid-November while still finalizing a deal to sell Bonny to the now missing man.

The last time the buyer talked with Diggle, he was about to meet with his lawyer to sign a contract which would officially grant him ownership of Bonny.

Soon after that, he said he intended to sail the yacht from Auckland to Tauranga and then onto the Chatham Islands.

"And that’s the last I heard from him," Diggle said.

The skipper’s plans, of course, were a lie and he set off north from Auckland into the Pacific Ocean.

He still owed NZ$15,000 [US$12,516] on the yacht.

Diggle said he was relieved to have plans in place to bring the yacht home.

He said police in the Cook Islands had been nothing but helpful and were keen to see Bonny out of the Avatiu harbor as soon as possible.

Diggle has been following Cook Islands News’ coverage of the issue online.

He said he had no idea about the charges the skipper faced in New Zealand.

When asked how he reacted to the unfolding news, Diggle could only manage one word: "Surprise." As for the skipper’s fate, Diggle indicated that he felt his heart troubles were no lie.

"If he didn’t have heart troubles, he would have just taken it (Bonny) and gone," Diggle said.

The skipper was thought to be heading to South America with Bonny and only called into Rarotonga once he suffered a suspected heart attack.

He was travelling south of Mangaia at the time and altered his course to make contact with Rarotonga and seek medical attention.

Diggle said the 36-foot Bonny would have been capable of making the trip, but sailing it through the Pacific during hurricane season was an ill thought out move.

That is why Diggle is waiting until April to have someone sail it back to New Zealand.

He’ll have to cover the costs of flying a skipper up. A friend indicated he’d be happy to sail Bonny south, but Diggle said the cost would be worth it to have the vessel back in his possession.

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