A young American adventurer and evangelist visiting one of the islands in India’s remote cluster of Andaman and Nicobar has been killed by a tribe of hunter-gatherers, who he was reportedly trying to convert to Christianity.
The North Sentinel Island, which is out of bounds for visitors, is home to the Sentinelese community, believed to be the last pre-Neolithic tribe in the world.
The American, identified as 26-year-old John Allen Chau, was shot and killed with bow and arrows after being illegally ferried to the island by fishermen. He was then dragged across a beach and buried in the sand, police say.
Dependra Pathak, the director general of police in Andaman and Nicobar said “a murder case has been registered against unknown persons” – adding that the fishermen had been arrested.
Mr Chau’s social media posts identify him as an adventurer and explorer. Responding to a travel blog query about what was on the top of his adventure list, he said: “Going back to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India.”
“I definitely get my inspiration for life from Jesus,” Mr Chau wrote.
A source with access to Mr Chau’s notes, who asked not to be named, said the keen traveller wrote that he was “doing this to establish the kingdom of Jesus on the island…Do not blame the natives if I am killed.”
Based on his social media posts, Mr Chau appears to have visited India multiple times in the last few years, exploring many parts of southern India and preaching in some places too.
The police said in a statement late on Tuesday they had launched an investigation after being contacted by the US consulate in the southern city of Chennai.
A post shared by John Chau (@johnachau) on Oct 21, 2018 at 12:09am PDT
“We are aware of reports concerning a US citizen in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands,” a consulate spokeswoman said in an email, but declined to provide further details.
North Sentinel Island is about 50 km west of Port Blair, the capital of the island cluster.
In 2006, two fishermen, whose boat strayed onto the 60sq/km island, were killed and their bodies never recovered. An Indian Coast Guard helicopter sent to retrieve the bodies was repelled by a volley of arrows from the community.
‘Why are they so angry?’
Police director Pathak said a Coast Guard vessel with police and experts on the tribe had gone to scout the island and formulate a plan to recover Mr Chau’s body.
Mr Chau had made two or three trips to the island by canoe from November 15, making contact with the tribe but returning to his boat. He told the fishermen one day later that he would not come back from the island and instructed them to return home and pass on some handwritten notes he had made to a friend.
The next morning they saw his body being dragged across a beach and buried in the sand, the police chief said, adding: “This was a misplaced adventure in a highly protected area.”
A source with access to his notes said Mr Chau had taken scissors, safety pins and a football as gifts to the tribe.
In his notes, the source said, he wrote that some members of the tribe were good to him while others were very aggressive.
“I have been so nice to them, why are they so angry and so aggressive?” the source quoted Mr Chau as saying.
In a statement issued on his Instagram account, Mr Chau’s family said they “forgive those reportedly responsible for his death”.