The Garden of Evil examines the last days of Sir Peter Blake’s life and whether his death was at the hands of organised criminals or was a tragic result of a robbery

Was Sir Peter Blake, the preeminent ocean going sailor of his time, killed for his environmental activism, as Brazilian media suggested or was his death the tragic result of a robbery? The Garden of Evil seeks to answer this question, but never provides enough conclusive evidence.

Written, produced and directed by Larry Keating, who covered many of Sir Peter’s sailing adventures, and co-produced by Alan Sefton, who wrote the biography of Sir Peter, the documentary takes a well-researched look at the corruption within The Amazon and the extent of the grip that organised crime has on the ‘green lung of the world’, home to a third of the world’s biodiversity.

The team of investigative journalists are led by BBC TV presenter and criminologist, Donal MacIntyre. He had been due to join Sir Peter onboard his research yacht, Seamaster, for an episode of the journalist’s television series, MacIntyre Investigates, and arrived in the Amazon the day after Sir Peter was murdered onboard Seamaster in December 2001.

At the time, Sir Peter was a United Nations Special Envoy for the environment, and was sending regular ‘sensitive’ reports to the UN about what his team found while exploring the region.

The man responsible for shooting dead Sir Peter, Ricardo Colares Tavares is also interviewed by English Brazilian-based journalist Sam Cowie, who first interviewed him in 2017. At that time, Tavares refused to answer who, if anyone else, was behind the boarding of Seamaster but hinted there was ‘more to tell’.

Giving a voice to this killer left me uncomfortable, especially as it failed to shed any real light on the motivations behind Sir Peter’s death that the documentary was trying to answer, other than for Tavares to say that he didn’t plan the robbery on Seamaster, and that he was hired by another gang. MacIntyre suggests that Tavares is unable to reveal anything further because of the threat to his life.

Having subsequently found out that this documentary was ‘strongly opposed’ by Sir Peter Blake’s family because it ‘amplifies the voice of his murderer’ , uses footage of Sir Peter to ‘sensationalise the content’ and ‘gain further publicity’, will cause ‘unnecessary emotional distress and hurt’ to Sir Peter’s family and friends, and focusses on Sir Peter’s death, rather than remembering him through his sailing exploits, I was left with a pretty nasty taste in my mouth.

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The Blake family also refute any suggestion that Sir Peter’s death was the result of being targeted by organised criminals for his environmental work; it was, they believe, the tragic result of a robbery.

The Garden of Evil also examines the attempted murder of environmental activist Captain Peter Bethune in 2017 and reveals ‘similarities’ between the two crimes.

Both men were in Macapá, a city at the mouth of the Amazon Basin, investigating illegal environmental activities. This area is one of the most violent places on earth, according to MacIntyre, and the ‘most deadly region in the world for environmental activists’.

Captain Bethune, who was following the illegal wildlife trade, believes his attack was an organised hit – a view the police also share, although they have no evidence to prove it. He also believes it can’t be ruled out that Sir Peter Blake was also targeted by organised crime for his environmental work.

The best part of the documentary was the impressive research and interviews by Brazilian based journalist Ciao Vilela, who looked at the extent of illegal environmental activity in the Amazon Basin, with interviews with the indigenous Mundurukú tribe, whose very way of life is threatened with extinction due to illegal logging.

Illegal fishing, illegal logging, illegal mining, wildlife and human trafficking; the exploitation of this protected reserve is truly jaw dropping, as are the links between organised crime and the corruption of public officials in Brazil. Over 200 activists were killed in The Amazon during the making of The Garden of Evil.

The documentary would have been much more powerful had it focused solely on this, rather than trying to make connections between the death of Sir Peter Blake, his environmental work and organised crime.

There is no doubt that the loss of Sir Peter Blake denied the world a committed, selfless environmental champion, as well as a legendary sailor.

His insistence that ‘we have to act if the Amazon is to be saved’ is true today as it was when he said it 20 years ago; the continued exploitation of the Amazon region is a sad testament to how little has changed in the intervening two decades.

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The post The Garden of Evil: review of the new Peter Blake film appeared first on Yachting Monthly.

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