I wasn't there when my son needed me: Captain Sunil James

What exactly took place on the night of July 16?
We had just finished loading Premium Motor spirit that we were shipping back on July 16. Once night set in, a group of pirates attacked our ship. Along with my colleagues, I was blindfolded. Our hands were also bound. After that, they ransacked our ship and took away all of our belongings. We were nearing Lome the next day, and that was when we were released.

Sunil James hugs his mother Anamma at their home in Malad. The 75-year-old had told MiD DAY last week that she wanted to see her son before she died. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi

My right wrist was slashed and I was bleeding the entire time. I was unsure if I’d survive, but once we neared Lome, we received help and were rushed to the hospital. Thankfully, the cut wasn’t deep, but I had to get six stitches for it.


When were you sent to the Togo prison and how often were you able to contact your family?
I was told I would be detained for further investigations. I spent my first day in prison on July 30. The entire time, no one used the word ‘arrested’, but just that I was being kept for further investigation.

After a 5-month ordeal in a Togo prison, Sunil James was finally reunited with his family yesterday. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

This happened after the case was reported on July 17 and investigations had begun for the case. I was never directly in touch with any of the Togo authorities, due to the language barrier. However, my lawyer would brief me on everything, and the entire time, the only thing that kept me going was the thought of my wife and son, who were awaiting my return back home.

I was able to get in touch with my wife very erratically, through brief phone calls made through the prison guards. But the worst part about my ordeal was the time I was informed about my son’s death. I wasn’t there to help my family or be there for my son when he passed away.

Following this ordeal, will you be able to continue sailing in the future?
I have been a sailor for the last 17 years and despite what happened in the last several months, I will continue sailing. On most occasions earlier, my wife would join me, but she stayed back this time because of her recent delivery. Vivaan was also too young to travel. As of now, I’m just trying to get my life back on track, and hope for a better future.

Do you think the constant media exposure helped secure your release from Togo?
Definitely. I would like to thank the print media, the Indian committee members, who constantly supported us and helped bring our plight forward. Also, the Honourable Counsellor of India, the Togo president and Indian authorities. I’d also like to thank the merchant navy officers, Mr Khanna and Mr Vasavni for everything.

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