In the summer of 1978, John Dewhirst, Stuart Glass, and Kerry Hamill decided to set sail on an adventure across the seas. The three friends boarded Kerry’s yacht, Foxy Lady, at the small harbor town of Kuala Terengganu in Malaysia and set a course for Bangkok, Thailand.
A short time after they begin their voyage, Foxy Lady had made its way to Cambodian waters and was seized by a patrol boat. Authorities suspect that Glass was on his way to grab a load of Thai sticks (illegal cannabis) when he was shot and killed. Both Dewhirst and Hamill were rumored to have been taken to an interrogation center on a nearby island.
It wasn’t uncommon for family members of Dewhirst and Hammill to experience periods of time with little to no communication. However, when letters failed to arrive in the mailbox, their families began to get concerned.
“He used to write to me on his travels,” Dewhirst’s sister, Hilary, says, 40 years later. “They were getting the boat ready and he was going on his final trip before coming home.”
Shortly after realizing their son and brother was missing, the Hammills would sit around the table listening to Kerry’s father read his previous letters aloud. His mother would try to encourage the family ever so often, saying, “Don’t you worry. He’ll turn up and surprise us in time for Christmas.”
Vietnam liberated over 20,000 prisoners being held at the S-21 prison in 1979. Reports indicate that photographs and confessions of nine Western yachtsmen were discovered in the prison’s files. Dewhirst and Hamill’s confessions stated that they had been captured by a Khmer Rouge patrol vessel on August 13, 1978.
Although the extent to which John and Kerry were tortured still remains a mystery, Dewhirst’s sister was told by a guard outside the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum that her brother was burned to death.
“I was told a story by a guard when I visited there,” Hilary said, “that John was taken out, tied into a tire and set on fire at S-21. But he didn’t know if it might have been a different Westerner.” Neither John nor Kerry’s bodies have been recovered.