2006 Deaths of 2 Men on Remote Island Get New Look

In hopes of gaining insight into how to retrieve John Allen Chau's remains
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 26, 2018 8:37 AM CST
Officials Study Death of Men Killed by Remote Tribe in 2006
In this October 2018 photo, American adventurer John Allen Chau, right, stands for a photograph with Founder of Ubuntu Football Academy Casey Prince, 39, in Cape Town, South Africa, days before he left for in a remote Indian island of North Sentinel Island, where he was killed.   (AP Photo/Sarah Prince)

(Newser) – Indian officials have traveled repeatedly in recent days near the remote island where American John Allen Chau was killed by people who have long resisted the outside world. But they have not set foot onto North Sentinel Island since his killing, and it remains unclear if they will. A boat carrying police and other officials approached North Sentinel on Friday and Saturday, watching the Sentinelese through binoculars, reports the AP. On Saturday the tribesmen were armed with spears and bows and arrows, but they did not attempt to shoot them at the authorities, says Dependera Pathak, director-general of police on the Andaman and Nicobar island groups. "We watched them from a distance and they watched us from a distance."

Officials have not given up on recovering the body, he says. But they are moving gingerly, studying the 2006 killing of fishermen whose boat drifted onto the island. "We are looking carefully at ... what (the Sentinelese) did." The islanders buried the two fishermen on the beach, but dug up the corpses after a few days and propped them upright. Authorities never recovered those bodies, and the killings were never investigated. Anthropologist PC Joshi says he understands why authorities want to recover the body. "If there is a death, then the cause of death should be known. It's important," says Joshi, a professor at Delhi University. But it's also becoming a "futile" quest, he says. "Of course, we can't prosecute" the islanders if they killed Chau, and it may already be too late to learn much, since the heat and humidity will cause rapid decomposition. (Chau left a 13-page letter.)

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