The man who murdered Sir Peter Blake has a message for the sailor’s family: ‘‘I’m sorry.’’ Sam Cowie meets the killer behind bars.
THE muscle-bound murderer appears all of a sudden, instantly recognisable from the mugshots taken more than a decade ago.
Ricardo Colares Tavares was a ruggedly handsome man with well-kept hair, someone who wouldn’t look out of place as the edgy guy in a boy band line-up.
But the ravages of drugs and life inside Brazil’s notorious prison system have taken their toll.
Sixteen years after he shot and killed a New Zealand national hero, Tavares, now 38, is bald, with greying hair and stubble, his olivecoloured skin tanned dark as he greets us in an administration block at the Instituto de Administracao Penitenciaria do Amapa, some 2700km from Rio de Janeiro.
‘‘I’m sorry,’’ he says when asked if he has a message for Sir Peter Blake’s family. ‘‘I regret it very much, it wasn’t my intention. It was other factors that took me that day,’’ he adds, and it is unclear if he is referring to some kind of peer pressure from the gang, a desire for some kind of excitement or some easy money.
‘‘I don’t know who will receive this message, but I don’t have anything else to ask, except my forgiveness,’’ he says. ‘‘It wasn’t the end that I planned, but it happened, and I’m here doing my time.
‘‘There were so many losses during this time, and these losses we don’t get back from one day to another.’’
On December 5, 2001, Tavares and his gang of water-borne thugs boarded Sir Peter Blake’s research boat, the Seamaster, near the mouth of the Amazon. Blake was shot twice in the back while trying to fight back against the seven pirates.
While Blake’s legacy has grown through the youth leadership trust that bears his name and New Zealand’s renewed love affair with the America’s Cup, Tavares’ life of crime and drug addiction has continued to plumb the depths, even behind bars.
Initially sentenced to 36 years in jail, Tavares has tried to dig and blow his way out of prison in two escape attempts, and committed armed robbery while on day release.
His lengthy rap sheet shows a man who showed the same disregard for authority inside prison as he did as a young, drugged-up desperado robbing boats on the Amazon river to fund his habit.
In what he claims to be his first at-length interview with foreign media, Tavares says he has enduring ing regrets about killing a man who, to him, was just another wealthy tourist.
‘‘It wasn’t the end that I planned, but it happened, and I’m here doing my time.’’
The Instituto de Administracao Penitenciaria do Amapa (IAPEN) prison is located in Macapa city, where the mighty Amazon reaches the Atlantic. It’s about a 40-minute drive from the city of Santana where Tavares grew up in a well-to-do Catholic family and a short distance from where Blake was murdered.
Tavares is definitely not your average Brazilian prisoner.
I regret it very much, it wasn’t my intention.’ RICARDO TAVARES
He comes from an upper middle-class, business-owning family who even have a street named after them in their town.
He’s in good physical shape, wearing bright new sandals, a T-shirt and shorts and looks to be keeping fit in the prison gym.
But his face betrays his years of drug-taking and tough prison life.
‘‘My reason for entering the world of crime wasn’t financial, it was something different,’’ he says mysteriously. ‘‘I turned down the BBC, Discovery Channel.’’
Tavares sits on a chair next to me answering questions but he clearly wants to control the situation. He jumps back and forth between subjects and rarely responds to questions directly. At times, he is hard to follow. The whole time, it feels like he is holding back.
‘‘It hasn’t got any easier,’’ he says of his time in prison. ‘‘The same danger that I faced then, I face today.’’
While he accepts his crime, and indeed seems to show remorse, he claims to have been a victim of sensationalist press coverage, as well as some unfair
Ricardo Tavares, above, comes from a wealthy family but fell into a life of drugs and crime. He is due for release in 2023.