John Allen Chau: Body of man killed by Sentinelese tribe may never be recovered


There are growing fears that the body of an American missionary killed on a remote island occupied by a mysterious and hostile tribe may never be recovered.

John Allen Chau was buried on a beach on North Sentinel Island, which is home to the indigenous Sentinelese tribe which attacks anyone who strays too close to its shores.

The 27-year-old interloper knew that death was a possible outcome as he ventured onto the island in a bid to convert members of one of the world’s most isolated groups.

Indian authorities attempted to recover his body, but they were forced to abandon their latest attempt after tribesmen armed with bows and arrows appeared ready for a fight.



John Chau, 27, was aware of the tribe’s reputation for deadly attacks

 

 

The authorities believe they know where Mr Chau’s body is buried after he was apparently killed by arrows. But the islanders may make it impossible for the young American’s remains to be retrieved.

His family have urged police to recover his remains so they can be flown back to the US. It is no easy task, as the team could be attacked with arrows or spears.

In 2006, two fishermen were killed by the tribe. Their bodies were hooked onto bamboo stakes facing out to sea like a “scarecrow”, and were never recovered.

On Sunday, a marine unit came within 400 metres (1,300ft) of the island – territory which belongs to India – but it retreated after a stand-off.



Islanders arm themselves with bows and arrows and spears

 

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The authorities are hoping to avoid direct contact with what is considered to be the last pre-Neolithic group in the world.

Regional police chief Dependra Pathak told AFP: “They stared at us and we were looking at them.

“We have not spotted the body yet but we roughly know the area where he is believed to be buried.”

The Sentinelese, estimated to be only a few dozen in number, have aggressively resisted contact with outsiders.


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Mr Chau, from Vancouver, Washington, had paid a group of fishermen £250 to take him to North Sentinel Island, part of the Andaman and Nicobar islands, in the Bay of Bengal.

He had arrived in Port Blair, capital of the chain of islands, on a tourist visa in mid-October, hoping to meet members of the tribe even though people are banned from visiting North Sentinel.

The fishermen took him and his kayak to the island earlier this month.

Mr Chau’s first attempt to make contact with the hunter-gatherers nearly resulted in his death.



The unspoilt North Sentinel island
North Sentinel Island, in the Bay of Bengal, belongs to India

In his journal, he wrote that the tribesmen -about 5ft 5ins tall with yellow paste on their faces – had reacted angrily as he attempted to speak their language and sing “worship songs” to them.

He added: “I hollered, ‘My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you’.”

One of the juveniles shot at him with an arrow, which pierced his waterproof Bible.

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Mr Chau, who went bearing gifts, including a football, scissors and fish, retreated to the fishing boat and successfully made it to shore on a later attempt.

However, he was killed by the islanders on November 17 and buried on the beach, according to the fishermen who watched from a distance.

Police have launched a murder case and are investigating the people who helped Mr Chau travel to the island.

The missionary’s family have said they “forgive” his killers and they have called on authorities to release those who allegedly helped him.

Six fishermen and one of Mr Chau’s friends in Port Blair have been arrested.

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John Allen Chau

 



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