Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

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Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by Steve Wooler » Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:34 pm

Sadly, I must strongly advise visitors against visiting the Courland Monument, Fort James or the Mystery Tombstone in Plymouth.

These three historical features are situated in the same general area, at the northern end of Plymouth. For many years the only road to the monuments has been the stamping ground of a disturbed individual who watches out for, and harasses tourists, demanding hand-outs. He is variously described by local contacts as a drug addict, alcoholic or 'village idiot'. Whatever the reasons, all I can say is that his behaviour is becoming increasingly belligerent and aggressive.

While checking out changes in the town earlier today, I drove past the Mystery Tombstone. Sure enough, this guy raced out in front of the car to stop me. I just yelled “not today, thanks” and drove on. He raced after me but soon gave up. He knows the town better than me and although I looped round the block, he was waiting for me at the next junction. He again ran in front of the car and stopped me, then made his way round to the driver’s side. I said nothing and his shouts were incoherent. As he cleared the front of the car I drove off. He threw two punches at my arm, which was resting on the open window. His punches made contact, but caused no injury.

This sort of incident is very disturbing. Even though I was expecting trouble, it is still upsetting. I am hugely angered by the incident because it is just the sort of thing that could put visitors off this island for ever – and the sort of negative story that they would repeat to many, many people.

It is just so hugely frustrating because this has been going on for years. The authorities are fully aware of it, but do nothing. I specifically mentioned this problem to Neil Wilson, the previous Secretary of Tourism, about four years ago during a discussion in which I also cited the increasingly aggressive activities of the tour guides at Argyle Waterfall and the Gilpin Trail. Fortunately the situation at the Gilpin Trail and, to a lesser degree, Argyle, seems to have improved – but why has nobody done anything about the guy in Plymouth?

I was in two minds as to whether I should report the incident. However, the nearest police station is 15 minutes’ drive away and after the rude and surly treatment I received there the last time I called (simply to ask for directions to a villa in that area) I frankly have no confidence that it would be worth the journey. Reporting it to the Tourism Department would be totally pointless: apart from anything else, they are probably too busy deciding which luxury hotel to stay at during their forthcoming trip to the ITB travel show in Berlin.

The worst thing is that the offices of the Plymouth and area local government representatives are just two hundred metres down the road from this man's 'hang out'. It is a very quiet suburban street that probably sees less than a dozen cars an hour. There is no way that they cannot be aware of this man's behaviour. Yet they do nothing.

This so sadly says it all about law and politics in Tobago.
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Re: Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by Steve Pitts » Wed Feb 24, 2010 8:13 am

Hi Steve

Sadly, I have to agree with you on this guy's attitude.

As regular visitors to Plymouth over the past 10 years we've been accosted by him a few times.
His usual hang-out is at the bus terminus by the Courland monument / mystery tombstone.

His usual approach is to try to sell a very small coconut, by flagging down passing motorists and dropping it into the car, then saying ' I got no money - you give me five dolla' .

As you say, telling him that you're not interested cuts no ice and he gets more persistant, repeating his sales pitch of 'you give me five dolla' in a zombie-like monotone, which can be rather threatening.

I find it hard to be polite after a few minutes of this repeated and sustained pressure and as easy as it would be to give him the $5, I don't respond well to pressure selling and on our latest visit a couple of weeks ago, I drove off with him grabbing hold of the half-closed drivers side window, having quite forcefully handing his coconut back to him.

He has directly put a number of people that I know of from visiting Plymouth and I well remember watching him following a couple of tourists all the way from Plymouth pier, along the beach to the Rex, hounding them for a handout, so distance is no object once he latches on to a punter.

Personally, I can't see anyone in authority doing anything about him, as he's been plying his trade for at least 10 years, although your brush with him lashing out is the first I've heard of him becoming aggressive.

It would be agreat pity if people were put off Tobago as a whole because of a chance meeting with this guy, who appears to be reacting in an increasingly aggressive way to rejection.

Enjoy the remainder of your stay

Steve
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Re: Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by Steve Wooler » Sat May 08, 2010 2:05 pm

Some half hour after posting the report above – and with no connection to the posting -
I received a telephone call from ex-Secretary of Tourism, Mr Neil Wilson, who had just been notified about the incident. He persuaded me to make formal complaint to the police. I had no desire to do this; but equally felt it unfair to complain if I did not at least give them the opportunity to deal with the matter according to ‘normal’ procedures.

I could write a book about what followed. It was frankly a farce. Everything confirmed my previous impressions (seconded by many) that the officers at the Old Grange Police Station are surely the rudest, most arrogant, law enforcement officers in the world. Frankly their attitude and standards of professionalism are not what one might reasonably expect of a developing nation like T&T.

I won’t bore readers with the detail. Having wasted several hours trying to get action from the officers at Old Grange, I was determined not to let the matter go. I would have gladly dropped the complaint if the police had told me that there was no evidence, or that he hadn’t broken any law, or whatever. Anyway, despite the involvement of the Chief Secretary’s office and the personal involvement of the Assistant Commissioner of Police for Tobago (ACP), I had not heard another word about the matter when I left Tobago at the end of March.

In fairness, Tobago works on a different timescale to the rest of the world. It would be almost unreasonable to expect anything to happen quickly. Anyway, the long and short of it is that this man, Andy Williams (but variously known as “Tuff Skin” or “Coconut Man”) was arrested two weeks ago. A magistrate expressed concerns about his mental health and remanded him to St.Ann’s Mental Hospital in Trinidad for psychiatric assessment. He will either receive the help he clearly needs or be tried for the assault. I rather hope it is the former: it would be nice to think that we haven’t just managed to stop a long-term “tourist hassler”, but also helped someone get the help they need.

Hopefully this will have resolved the problem of tourists being hassled when visiting the Courland Monument or Mystery Tombstone at Plymouth. However, if anyone DOES get any hassle there, can I ask them to please let me know.
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Re: Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by Brian E. » Wed May 12, 2010 10:16 am

Well we have just got back from a trip to Tobago and had the unfortunate pleasure of meeting "Rubberskin" in person. that was during our second week in Tobago. We were there from april 14th to april 29th, so we must have met him arround the 22nd or 23rd.
We were at the pier scouting the place out as a potential fishing spot where he pushed a coconut in my hands and demanded money. Since we were 2 guys, one very big, he didn't get that pushy but stayed and his tone was very demanding. After ingnoring him and laying down the coconut he grab the near empty bottle of coke my buddy had and run off and drank the last sip. To stunned by the surprise to do anything we let it be and left the place. He didn't try to follow or harash us at the car.
if we would have know who he was, afterwards we heard all the info from the locals, we would have probbably tossed him off the pier.
But all in all, 3 weeks ago he was roaming free.
Unfortunatley we didn't get a good feeling from the police either, after a minor bumb with another car we were told that we could face jailtime/arrest if problems arrise and that we should sort out damage and payment with the owner of the car in question, even though we were inssured. That didn't really spook us and left back home a day later (yes crashing on the last day of the holliday)
KCNN from who we rented was absolutely great and polite with arranging everything, so compliments to his company

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Re: Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by Steve Wooler » Wed May 12, 2010 10:31 am

Hi Brian

My information was that he was arrested by the police on Wednesday 21st April and appeared in court on Friday 23rd. This has all been confirmed to me by the Assistant Commisioner of Police for Tobago - so my source has to be considered solid.

Hopefully your recollecions are a day or two out - otherwise it means there is another 'hassler' in the area. Your description fits the guy who assaulted me to a 'T' and although I'm not familiar with the name "Rubberskin", I know this guy is called various different names. I would put money that your guy and mine are one and the same. Did you take any photos the day you met him? If so, the timestamp of the photos (assuming digital) will give you the date.
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Re: Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by Andy K » Wed May 12, 2010 7:39 pm

Brian E. wrote:if we would have know who he was, afterwards we heard all the info from the locals, we would have probbably tossed him off the pier.
That would have been indeed the method of choice.

Unfortunately long term consumption of cocaine makes the addict act aggressively. From your description i assume he is one of those guys. Well, we hope they will keep him in St. Anns for a while.

The police has is not easy with those fellas as long as they don't commit a serious crime. The Plymouth village council
may have be the better institution to deal with the problem (which of course they would conveniently ignore as long as nobody comes and complains).

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Re: Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by Brian E. » Thu May 13, 2010 1:07 pm

Looking at the photographs I indeed misplaced the date, probably by a day or two. We must have been there arround the 20th or the 21st according to the pictures (but then again the 21st couldn't have been since we were there at arround 4 pm) so the 20th it must have been.

We later talked with Kester and Arnim Douglas from Ocean Experience and they called him Rubberskin since he walks bare footed on the hot pavement. he's got a cerrtain speaking disorder aswell :).

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Re: Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by Steve Wooler » Thu May 13, 2010 1:19 pm

Hi Brian

I am convinced they are one and the same. I didn't know whether he had a speech impediment or it was the effect of drink or drugs, but I have never been able to understand a word he is saying/shouting. Anyway, here is a picture of him taken a few days after the incident happened. This photo was supplied to the police and officer handling the case immediately identified him from it.
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Re: Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by Darryl_V » Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:14 pm

I was wondering if this guy is still an issue, and if Plymouth should still be avoided?

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Re: Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by Steve Wooler » Fri Mar 16, 2012 8:44 pm

Hi Darryl

Yes, I'm sorry to say that he is back on the streets and still being a nuisance to tourists.

We just ended two weeks on Grafton beach two days ago and we saw the guy 'patrolling' the beach, coconut in hand, almost daily. We saw a number of alteracations between the guy and tourists - you could tell the ones who had been there a few days and had been bothered by him before in the way they were clearly gesturing for him to go away as he approached them. However, I have never heard of any incidents of physical abuse, such as the way he hit my arm. He generally seems to back off as soon as people tell him to.

If you don't fancy risking any hassle from this guy, my advice would be to visit Plymouth before midday. My understanding is that he walks down the beaches, from Plymouth past the Turtle Beach and then to Grafton passing the Grafton and Le Grand Courlan, then turns around and walks back. Hopefully he has "earned" enough to buy his favourite tipple by the time he gets back to Plymouth late morning. He drinks that and that is when he can become aggressive. So, the danger period is from midday on.
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Re: Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by Steve Wooler » Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:36 am

A further update to the above.

Last week we met an elderly English couple staying at the Blue Haven Hotel. They hired a car and tried to visit the Courland Monument and Mystery Tombstone in Plymouth. As their car approached the tombstone area, our friend appeared and forced their car to a stop. He thrust a small coconut through the driver's window and demanded payment. The driver threw the coconut out and tried to drive off, with Andy Williams, a.k.a. "Coconut Man", hanging on for dear life.

It just sickens me that the authorities continue to allow this guy to continue to harrass people in this way. Almost worst of all, his actions are taking place within a hundred yards of the offices of the local government offices. You can't tell me that the Plymouth representative and other authorities are not aware of his activities. The people of Plymouth should be utterly ashamed of themselves. I urge visitors to avoid Plymouth until these people show more respect for visitors.
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Re: Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by Robert T » Tue Mar 27, 2012 5:46 pm

Hi all,

We met this guy many times during our visits. I guess he's just a fool. You gotta treat him rough and he backs off straightaway.


Rob

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Re: Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by Steve Wooler » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:14 am

Hi Robert

That is perfectly true. I have seen him slide off with his tail between his legs when people wave their arms at him and are clearly annoyed. However, I am also getting the impression that once he's downed his bottle of Puncheon, he is becoming increasingly aggressive. Hence his punching my arm when I failed to give him anything and the incident with the elderly couple last week - both in the early afternoon in Plymouth. So, take care!

Incidentally, the picture above was taken by me mid-afternoon when the Puncheon had really got into his system. I found him lying on the concrete road outside his family house in Plymouth.
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Re: Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by Robert T » Wed Apr 04, 2012 4:45 pm

Hi Steve,

Excellent picture!! :) We were wondering where you might've gotten it from.....



Rob

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Re: Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by Julian » Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:08 am

This is all rather sad...

I visited Fort James a couple of weeks ago and asked after Andy and George - two very pleasant guys I'd met on a trip to Tobago ages ago in 1976. George came to the UK shortly after, married an English girl and we met up once in the UK.

Andy invited my girl friend and I back to his mum's house in Plymouth where they cooked crabs Andy had caught on the beach along with rice - and they never wanted payment they were just being friendly, we had a great time with Andy across a period of 3 weeks.

Amazingly there was a guy in Fort James selling wooden turtle vases who knew "Coral" George who had returned to Tobago and had recently retired. I asked after Andy and he said he had had "troubles" but was still around.

So maybe this is the same guy - sad to hear. Nevertheless I hope that he is looked after.

I have attached a picture of Andy and his family (he's third from the left) taken in 1976 plus his mum and the family oven.

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Re: Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by Julian » Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:11 am

Picture of Andy + Family
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Re: Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by Julian » Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:14 am

Picture of Andy's mum + family oven
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Re: Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by Lynsey » Mon Oct 14, 2013 9:51 pm

Hello - long time lurker, first time poster :)

Just a wee note to say this chap seems to still be on the go around Plymouth - my boyfriend and I were driving around exploring and stopping off at beaches yesterday and on driving into one parking area a man in an orange t-shirt came to the front of the car, then to the driver side slapping on the windows and shouting as we drove on into the car park. He chased for a bit before going back to the entrance but we decided not to get out so to avoid any hassle and drove back out (more slapping and shouting on our way out!). We drove on to another beach nearby (I think next to the Seahorse Inn?) but just as we got out it started to rain, so we set off back up the hill to the main road... where our friend was waiting to stand in front of the car and slap the windows again. I mentioned to my boyfriend that I thought I had maybe read about this man here and sure enough...

It didn't really bother us (apart from putting us off stopping at that beach!) but it's sad that this man isn't being given help (if it is indeed the same chap!).

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Re: Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by Steve Wooler » Tue Oct 15, 2013 9:56 am

Hi Lynsey

A very special welcome aboard to you - there's nothing we like more than getting the lurkers out of the cupboard. :) :)

Yes, this guy "Coconut Man" Andy is back on the streets and still hassling tourists. Although he lives in Plymouth, he seems to make a daily walk down the beach front from Plymouth to Mount Irvine. We've stayed at a number of properties on Grafton beach over recent years and we would regularly see him in the morning hassling tourists, trying to sell them a small coconut. See if you can spot him in the attached photo (click to enlarge). He would always hang around Grafton Beach waiting for the seine net to be pulled in and would then always 'get involved' at the very last minute, doing absolutely sweet nothing, but looking as if he was helping so that he could claim a share. In this shot, you can see him hiding a fish behind his back. It was hilarious - but so sad really.
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Re: Plymouth - A Warning to Visitors

Post by MickC » Wed Jun 04, 2014 3:56 pm

As we drove up to a crossroads in Plymouth during our second week (lost as usual) this guy came steaming across the road shouting something unintelligible, and thrust two small mangoes through the open window at me. I think he kept repeating "something small"..."something small"... although I couldn't be sure. As I was trying to shut the electric window and get his arm out at the same time I managed to trap his wrist in the window. What I didn't realise immediately was that the car was still in drive and we were towing him into the middle of the junction. Luckily there was no other traffic about. Eventually I managed to eject him and his mangoes and we sped off to get really lost.
But that's another story.

Hilarious afterwards but quite scary at the time.

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