Jamaica Gleaner Online The Financial Gleaner
Updated Every Weekday at Noon - Jamaica Time March 17, 1999
German tour operator dies

OCHO RIOS, St. Ann - ON SUNDAY, the family of Mammee Bay tour operator Hans Moenkemoeller, who was on life support system in the Intensive Care Unit at the University Hospital, decided to pull the plug. He died at 2:00 p.m.

Mr. Moenkemoeller, who owned and operated the popular Safari Tours with his wife Brigitte, was hit on the head with a sledge hammer by thieves who broke into their business place last Thursday.

The robbers, one armed with a gun, a second with a set of pliers and the other with a hammer, broke in on the tour operators and one of their employees, hitting Mr. Moenkemoeller on the head and stealing cash and goods valued at US$6,000. Mrs. Moenkemoeller also received minor injuries.

The Moenkemoellers, German nationals, first came to Jamaica three years ago and fell in love with the island. A successful businessman, he had operations in the US and other parts of the world but was encouraged by friends to give the island a try.

Residents and business interests in Ocho Rios are expressing outrage over what is considered another serious blow to the tourist industry.

"Hans could have gone anywhere else in the world and done good business but he just loved Jamaica," said Valrie Scott, family friend and tour operator. "It's a real tragedy what has happened to him and I am afraid this is another dark chapter in Jamaica's tourism".

Thursday's attack was the third time in the last two months that the upscale Mammee Bay area of St. Ann was seeing violent crimes against visitors. Last month, guests staying at the Seven Seas Villa were held up and robbed by gunmen. Prior to that, a group of American tourists at a nearby villa suffered the same fate.

The incident also raised questions about the ability of the police to respond quickly to emergencies following reports that they took nearly an hour to respond after Mr. Moenkemoeller was attacked.

"We first called 119 which was surprisingly busy for at least a couple of valuable minutes," said the employee who was a victim of last week hold-up. "When we finally got through, we were told to call our local police which we did. It was a long time before they got here and the criminals (were) long gone."

Charges unfair

The St. Ann's Bay and Ocho Rios police, stung by the criticism, are insisting that the charges are unfair, saying they are inundated with calls on a daily basis and are insufficiently equipped to respond immediately to all emergency calls.

Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) spokesperson on tourism, Michael Belnavis, agreed. What is presently taking place in St. Ann is a sad indictment on the country as a whole and should not be blamed on the Police Force, he said.

The St. Ann Chamber of Commerce has also condemned the attack and has called for a speedy apprehension of those responsible. Joe Issa, president of the Chamber, described the attack as an act of cowardice and one that was bound to have serious repercussions on the already fragile tourism industry.

"I feel for Hans and his family," Mr. Issa said. "They are honest and hard-working individuals who have contributed a lot to this country."

Mr. Moenkemoeller's body will be cremated and flown back to his hometown in Germany.

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