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U.S. Citizen Murdered in Roatan

U.S. Citizen Murdered in Roatan - Philip Foster Brown - via El Heraldo
By Jim Walker on November 21, 2018
Posted in Crime

A sixty-nine year old U.S. citizen, originally from California, was identified yesterday as the victim of an abduction and murder in Roatan, Honduras, according to a Honduran newspaper El Heraldo.

The newspaper reports that the body of Philip Foster Brown was found in a ravine near a road leading from West End to West Bay in Roatan on Tuesday. Mr. Brown, who had lived on the island of Roatan in a community on West Bay for several years, disappeared from his home several days ago, leaving a large pool of blood on the porch of his house. His corpse was found yesterday wearing only shorts with a bag over his head.

Mr. Bown was one of three "foreigners" (i.e., not Honduran) in Roatan who died under mysterious circumstances according to the Honduran press.

Roatan is a popular port which is heavily marketed as a paradise getaway by Miami-based cruise lines like Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean.

We have written about cruise passengers and at least one crew member who have been victimized in violent armed robberies over the years in this idyllic yet dangerous destination, earning it a spot (#2) on my list of the ten most dangerous cruise port in the world several years ago.

As we wrote before, like many other Caribbean islands, the police in Roatan are either indifferent or corrupt. The legal system is somewhere between barbaric and non-existent. Crimes against U.S. citizens are rarely solved or prosecuted.

Since 2010, Honduras has had one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world, ranging between 59 and 86 per 100,000 according to the U.S. Department of State. Honduras is far more deadly than even the most violent U.S. cities. Chicago, for example, has a per capita murder rate of 24 per 100,000. (The per capita homicide rate in the U.S. is a little over 4 per 100,000).

The U.S. State Department states that: "Roatan and the Bay Islands are geographically separated from and experience lower crime rates than on the mainland and other Caribbean islands; however, thefts, break-ins, assaults, rapes, and murders do occur."

The State Department Crime and Safety Report also states that "Cruise ship passengers should take safety precautions, avoid unfamiliar areas, and book only with reputable tour companies during their stopover. Cruise lines and port agencies have approved tour companies offering packages. Port agencies have worked to improve taxi service to/from ports. The vast majority of cruise line passengers experience no problems, but incidents of armed robbery (like this one) and carjacking have been reported."

November 23, 2018 Update: A resident of Roatan who does not feel comfortable revealing her name left this comment: " I live on Roatan. Over the last ten days there has been three kidnappings/abductions (including Phil Brown) resulting in probable homicides. There are 4 additional murders, 2 shootings in Los Fuertes and 2 stabbing deaths. That’s 7 total. Unreported, downplayed and hushed up. No increase in police or military as has happened in past crime waves. No actions from local or national govt. There has been lots of armed robberies often with victims threatened with guns of knives to throats. Please help get the word out to cruisers. Big companies should stop coming here now."

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Photo credit: El Heraldo.

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  • I think your article unfairly characterized Roatan. I have spent a total of four weeks there over the pass three years on three separate visits.
    2014 incidents you’ve referenced were four years ago and frankly this local resident was a local! So is it reasonable to conflate crimes against tourists with this?
    How many violent crimes against American tourists have occurred on Roatan since 2014? Almost none in fact.
    Since then, pretty much every resort and public park has armed security or police and rapes, murders, marked robbery, assaults have plummeted. In fact it has been more than 2 years since a tourist was murdered. The overall murder rate is 18 per 100k. Far lower than most cities in the US.
    These are the facts.
    Your article i think is unfair to Roatan. We love it there and have always felt safe. Of course I’m not going to walk around lonely roads or in non tourist parts of the city at night either but that is called being safe and a practice most would use anywhere.

      • We had a lovely time in Honduras. We went scuba diving with a local company, visited an animal rescue, we were given an island tour by a taxi driver, we walked around a bit. We stayed close to port while on foot.
        This guy who was murdered might be an American but if he’s been living in Honduras for 3 years, he’s no tourist, and it changes the tone of the article. My question might be, how many locals have been murdered in Honduras?

          • It was committed by someone within a powerful Argentinian family living in the area that has done other crimes. It was over a land dispute, which figures since Phil was also in real estate. There was a fist fight and then the guy came back and abducted him. The cops are being paid off and nothing will be done even though they know who killed Phil. You may like your island and have had fun being a tourist there, but the cops are corrupt if they are allowing people to murder others.

            • I agree with you, thanks for sharing

              • I've had the pleasure since 2003 in both staying on Roatan for extended periods and also visiting Roatan for the day while on a cruise over 10 times.

                Staying in Roatan overnight is very dangerous, the town of Coxen hole becomes violent and loud mainly because of no A/C thousands of locals stand outside walking the neighborhood until 4:00 am. Coxen Hole is the most dangerous section of Roatan.

                Originally Carnival Cruise had their port in Coxen hole then later built a location in Mohagany Bay which is about 7 miles outside Coxen Hole with excellent security.

                I've seen Norwegian ships port in Coxen Hole and passengers walk the Coxen Hole streets and would never approve of this section to be walked day or night.

                Although some locals are respectful of tourist and local and military police are present holding firearms it is my experience the police are only around for intimidation.

                I've seen many out of control fights with police watching instead of helping.

                I've known Phil Brown by a person (the person murdered Nov 2018) he was a kind person, No matter who he pissed off on the island please know this. Roatan Police will only investigate a couple layers and will not go deep into the investigation. Here is why.

                Foreigners murdered in the Bay Islands (2009-2004)


                Name Age




                Case Status

                2009, June 2

                Steve Jazz 63 USA

                Shot at his Corozal home


                No arrests

                2009, February 27

                Roger Walls 71 Canada

                Shot at his Corozal property


                Island woman arrested

                2008, November 13

                Don Tollefson 58


                Kidnapped, shot, stabbed

                Personal conflict

                Arrests of two islanders

                2008, October 25

                Lynn Elkin Woods 36


                Shot on street in Coxen Hole


                Suspect at large

                2007, March 6

                Nicolai Winter 42


                Victims property Shot


                No arrests

                2005, December 11

                Gary Smith 58


                Shot at home


                Six ladino people convicted

                2005, November 13

                Thomas Khuner 45


                machete at Hog Islands hotel


                Ladino male convicted

                2005, June 4

                Gary Fuertado Miller 53


                Shot in a police shootout


                Ruled justifiable homicide

                2004, October 4

                Tom Matulas 62


                Shot at his Roatan home

                Property dispute

                American convicted

                2004, October 4

                Richard Bourgerie 63


                Shot on his driveway

                Personal conflict

                Several arrested


                Let's not forget the American heiress stabbed to death by Machete in Roatan bedroom on December 22, 2013

                The great-granddaughter of heiress and socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post was slain by Marchetti in her Roatan Luxury home. Yes, POST as in Kellog Post cereal.

                  see more
                  • You are spot on. I lived on Roatan for 2 years and had to leave after fearing for my life.One of my best friends, a tranquil peaceful and amiable man who had given work to locals and who would not hurt a fly, Patrick Zinng, who owned Subway Watersports in 3 locations and had been on the island for many years, was murdered in his own home in 2010 and NOTHING was ever done to even try to look for the killer(s). My friend Joe was shot in broad daylight in West End and left quadriplegic because he leaned his bicycle against Rosita and Sam Wesley's bushes...and the list goes on and on. On Roatan it's not IF you are going to attacked but rather WHEN. Police are useless and the community cries for a few days and then life goes on...nobody's life is worth a penny there but a foreigner's is even less. Even though I miss the great scuba diving and a handful of friends, leaving that place was the best thing I ever did in my life. And although this was in 2010, I see nothing has changed and nothing ever will. Only when one actually goes there to live is when you see the danger in living there, to people who are tourists or who only go for a few weeks, it all looks "perfect"...

                    • tom 3 years ago

                      You know that some one was killed wiether a american or what ever this was brutal and every one stands down because they dont wanna know why it happen and are scared to say ,,Wake up

                        • Guest 3 years ago edited

                          Honduras is a sh! Thole. Oops, can't say dat Donald.

                            • Phil didn’t deserve this. He was a wonderful friend of the family. He has young grandchildren who will never know what a great guy he was. Karma is coming after the people responsible for harming him, I can guarantee that. He loved Roatan and he will be missed.

                                • Fren 3 years ago

                                  So I lived there for a year and would go back there without thinking. Lovely island and mich lovelier people. Welcome you with open arms and always try their best to share their culture with you. First of all yes Honduras might be more dangerous than some American cities but all of those statistics refer to the mainland (which is beautiful as well by the way). You can not compare this small caribbean island to the mainland! And seeing people describe the not recommended areas as filthy is just wrong in my eyes. Yes it might be poorer than you're used to but it is still beautiful. It is not the best idea to leave the recommended areas because you need a little geographical knowledge of the island to get to see the best places in those 6 hours your cruise will stop there, but don't judge a place without knowing it.

                                    • Thomas 3 years ago

                                      And why is this Cruise news????

                                        • This article does not properly depict what Roatan stands for and who the people are. My condolences to the native Islander who was allegedly killed. Yes I said "native." If you have not personally visited the beautiful island of Roatan or lived there for a period of time, then you have no knowledge to unfairly characterize Roatan. You will also know that the culture is very different then Honduras as a whole, so are the people. If it was up to the native people of the Bay Islands, they would have become independent from Honduras corruption and political schemes, but due the amount of tourist that visit every year and foreigners that infiltrate due to the low crime and beautiful bliss the island has become and has been a gem. Mr. Brown decided to reside in Roatan for a particulaf reason as well as many others do, and that’s because of the culture, his accesss to capitalize through real estate, the people, the beach and the worlds second barrier reef. If this Island is on your "dangerous destination, earning it a spot (#2) on my list of the ten most dangerous cruise port in the world" then you have it all wrong, because the Roatan you depicted is not the Roatan I have lived and loved.

                                          • Frank 3 years ago

                                            My wife and I were there this past February. The areas catering to cruise passengers are beautiful. Everything in between is a disgusting cesspool! It's filthy, obviously poor, and run down. I WOULD NOT recommend leaving the areas that are specifically catering to the cruise line passengers. That said, there is no better snorkeling in the world than the reef off of South Bay - which is not a cruise excursion.

                                              • there is some serious bee es in this article. first of all the murder rate last year in all of honduras was 60 per 100,000, and was much less in roatan. the murder rate in st. louis was 59 and baltimore 55. therefore roatan is much safer than st louis and baltimore. there is no published murder rate for roatan, but i would be willing to bet there are dozens of US cities that are much worse.

                                                  • Mike 3 years ago

                                                    I do not agree with all you listed in your article about Roatan, people like you that sit and write a whole load of Crap, you take food from peoples mouths without realizing you do so, YES, There is crime on Roatan, I agree with some of what you wrote, but, not the way you categorize it, get your facts in order, go there yourself and spend some time before publishing lies.

                                                    My most sincere Condolences to his family and friends, may he RIP, I’m a native Islander of Roatán, it’s sad that a huge percentage of crimes go unsolved or unjust, unfortunately, two of the main factors of the above mentioned are, Ignorance and corruption, why don’t these family members involve Interpole and the FBI, have them try to help, local officials are limited as to what they can do because of the Honduran corrupt military and police force.

                                                      • FBI has no jurisdiction, neither does Interpol unless called in by the Honduras government (and the crime has to be international) plain and simple the us state department has to place most of the region on its list of dangerous places to visit and issue travel advisory warning tourists. The Honduran government won't do anything unless they start taking a big hit in the pocketbook.

                                                        • I visited Roatan in late August. Carnival advised passengers not to stray too far from Port. We took a tour of some of the bad parts but I never felt threatened. Had a great time there.

                                                            • I read the article and as soon as it said he lived there three years I thought why is this cruise news. Another article mentioned Bahamas. Been there several times. Never a problem.

                                                                • Worked down there for 7 months a few years back only crime I saw was little kids trying to sell me weed !!!!!! Meanwhile in good old Jacksonville FL USA blacks shoot each other on a daily basis at least 1a day !!!!! so tell me where is most of the crime

                                                                    • This isn’t a competition buddy, crime is everywhere. This article is leaving a lot of info out on what really happened.

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                                                                        Cruise ship accidents, injuries, crimes, disappearances, fires, and collisions on the high seas involve issues of maritime law. Jim Walker graduated from law school in 1983 and has been handling maritime law cases for the past thirty-five years. He handles a wide variety of cases from serious injuries to the highest profile sexual assault and cruise crime cases.

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