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American killed by the Sentinelese in Andaman may not have acted alone

Two officers said that they have found evidence that two other US citizens came to Andaman and held several meetings with the John Chau at a “safehouse” just days before he went to the island.

india Updated: Nov 29, 2018 08:53 IST
Prawesh Lama
Prawesh Lama
Hindustan Times, South Andaman
Andaman and nicobar islands,American tourist,Sentinelese
An American self-styled adventurer and Christian missionary, John Allen Chau, was killed and buried by a tribe of hunter-gatherers on a remote Andaman island.(Reuters File Photo)

American John Allen Chau, feared killed by the Sentinelese on their isolated (and off-limits) island in Andaman earlier this month, may have been part of a larger group or organisation trying to introduce religion to the last known uncontacted tribe in the world, according to police officers familiar with the investigation.

Two officers said on Wednesday that they have found evidence that two other US citizens came to Andaman and held several meetings with the 27-year-old Chau at a “safehouse” just days before he went to the island. “The two US citizens were a 53-year-old woman from Tennessee and a 25-year-old man from Colorado,” said one of the officers cited above who asked not to be named. He added that they stayed in Andaman between November 5 and 10, and met with Chau in a house owned by a local named Alexander, who has been brought in for questioning. HT is not naming the American nationals because the investigation is ongoing.

In one of the notes that he left behind when he went to North Sentinelese Island for the second and last time on November 17, Chau talked about a “safehouse” where he was holed up for a week. “From Chau’s notes and the interrogation, prima facie our investigation suggests that during the meetings, Chau was motivated by these people to go to the island and introduce Christianity to the Sentinelese,” said a second officer who did want wish to be named.

The second officer said that the Colorado man landed in India on November 5 and flew directly to Andaman, while the woman came to India in October.

Read: American national John Allen Chau violated every rule in the book to meet the Sentinelese

Police said the two Americans left Andaman on November 10, and that Chau was supposed to make his first trip to the restricted North Sentinel Island the following day.

“He mentioned in his notes that the original plan was to go to the Island was November 11, a day after the two left. But the first attempt could not be made because of a cyclone in the Bay of Bengal. He was stuck in that safehouse until November 14 — this is also mentioned in his notes,” the second officer said.

According to hotel records seized by the police, the two US nationals mentioned Kolkata as their next travel destination. Police said they have found the details of the two and could contact them later.

The first officer said it was strange how Chau wrote that when he was stuck in the safehouse, he stayed largely in darkness (“being stuck in that safe house means I have not seen any full sunlight,” he wrote in his diary).

The second officer said that what gave further credence to the theory about a group or organisation was that while the five fishermen arrested for taking Chau to North Sentinel Island said he paid them ₹25,000 to be sneaked into the island, his notes suggested otherwise, describing them as “believers”.

“I met last night with the fishermen who are all believers and they agreed to take me. The meeting went well...,” Chau’s note reads. Nowhere in his diary is there any mention of money.

Read- ‘Tribes are a treasure’: Cops fight to get American tourist’s body from Andamans

Chau has written in the notes, some of which have been seen by HT, that the plan was to go to near the island posing as a fisherman — he would then use his kayak to row to the island while the other five would continue fishing.

“We are probing the case from all angles. Are the fishermen lying about the money? Where did Chau get the money from? What was the exact role of the other two Americans?” said the first officer.

Andaman police chief Dependra Pathak confirmed that two US nationals did visit Chau during his stay in Port Blair. “It looks like Chau wasn’t alone. We are still probing the case. I won’t comment on an ongoing investigation,” Pathak said.

HT reported on Wednesday that the fishermen told the police that Chau took a bag — containing his passport, clothes, belongings, first-aid kit, multi vitamins and other essential items — on the night of November 16 and hid it somewhere on the island. He then went to the island again the next day in the hope to “blend in” with the Sentinelese and live on the island for “several months”

First Published: Nov 29, 2018 07:21 IST