Previously unseen footage has emerged of the moment a competitor in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race discovered the corpse of a German sailor weeks before gruesome images of his mummified body was released to the world. The body of Manfred Fritz Bajorat was found by the LMAX Exchange crew off the east of the Philippines on board the Sayo yacht on January 31.
His yacht drifted along the ocean for a month before it was eventually rediscovered by fishermen off the coast of Barobo in Surigao del Sur on 25 February – around 300 miles away from where the LMAX Exchange crew spotted the vessel.
The team found the boat while racing between Australia and Vietnam, with one crew member climbing on board to see if there was anyone needing assistance. Body camera footage shows becoming audibly distressed before going below deck, presumable as he discovered the preserved body of Bajorat.
The crew said they informed the US coastguard (USCG) in Guam and the Falmouth Coastguard of their discovery, but were told to carry on racing as they were not in need of any assistance. Clipper Race director Justin Taylor also notified the German Embassy in London, which informed the German police. Documents found close to the body of the German helped identify who he was.
Clipper Race said they have only now gone public about their discovery after they had stopped racing "out of respect" and because they wanted to avoid causing "unnecessary alarm within the international sailing community".
The discovery by the LMAX team also casts doubt on the autopsy report on Bojorat's body which claimed he may have only died of a heart attack "around seven days" before he was found off the coast of Barobo at the end of February despite his mummified body.
"The cause of death is acute myocardial infarction based on the autopsy by [the] regional crime laboratory," national police spokesman Chief Superintendent Wilben Mayor told the AFP news agency.
"The German national is estimated to have been dead for more or less seven days," citing a southern Philippines police report.
Skipper of the LMAX crew Olivier Cardin said: "In the spirit of the Clipper Race and the crew of team LMAX Exchange, we put the racing aside in the hope of assisting the stricken vessel and any fellow sailors marooned.
"After boarding the drifting vessel, we unfortunately discovered the body of a lone sailor. We remained on site, under instruction, until released by the USCG who continued with the recovery.
"As a team we found comfort that he was found and that peace will be given to his friends and family who have been looking for him. Our words and thoughts were shared on board as he now rests in peace."
A Clipper Race spokesperson said: "Whilst it is necessary to explain whenever one of our Clipper Race teams stops racing, it was out of respect that we chose not to publicise the full details of the finding. We hoped to avoid causing unnecessary alarm within the international sailing community by announcing the death of a then unknown sailor.
"As a company, we also felt it was inappropriate to create a news story out of such tragic circumstances, plus the experience was quite distressing for the crew member who went aboard, who does not wish to talk publicly about it.
"We feel desperately saddened for Mr Bajorat's family who have now been subjected to the publication of graphic images. Our thoughts remain as ever with them."