Island police are investigating a series of assaults on scuba enthusiasts diving off Blacktip Island during the past two days.
“This is an ongoing investigation,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “All I can say is in the past day and a half, 12 divers have reported being accosted while diving on area reefs.”
“It’s shocking,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “We pride ourselves on being one of the most crime-free places in the Caribbean, then something like this happens.”
One victim, who asked to remain anonymous, said the attack happened without warning.
“One minute I’m looking at a green moray, the next someone snatches my mask off my face and jams a brand new mask on in its place,” she said. “He was gone before I could react.”
Another victim described a more harrowing experience.
“It was horrible. This old dude just popped out of a barrel sponge as I swam past,” the man said. “I saw him out of the corner of my eye, split-second, and Wham! He pinned me against the coral, jammed a new dive light down my wet suit, then disappeared up one of those coral chimneys. It’s great light, LED and all, but . . . it’s not right.”
Island police are still unsure of the assailant’s motive.
“He’s not physically harming divers, or taking anything of value,” IPC Marquette said. “On the contrary, all the victims report ending up with better scuba gear than they started out with.
“A do-gooder gone rogue, maybe. Or a thief with a guilty conscience, giving away his ill-gotten booty.”
“We won’t stand for it,” Skerritt said. “We’ve issued spears to all our divemasters, and they’ll do whatever’s necessary to protect our guests.”
Island authorities are asking for the public’s help in apprehending the man. The assailant is described as a heavy-set, elderly, with a white beard and wearing a red wetsuit. Several witnesses noted the man using a DPV or underwater sled of some sort to make his escapes. There are also unconfirmed reports of him being accompanied by eight or nine large Nassau grouper, one of which had inflamed, red nostrils.