Slain Frenchman protected island from poachers
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—The French national murdered with his wife and son early this week was a self-styled environmentalist who brandished guns to chase away intruders from an island that the expatriate had turned into his home and had zealously guarded against poachers.
Locals called him “Rambo,” after the movie character portrayed by actor Sylvester Stallone, and the way he fought poachers around the island off Taytay town in northern Palawan had become controversial, according to another expatriate and friend of the victim.
The bodies of Jean Marc Messina, 54, his Filipino wife, Jewel, and their 10-year-old son, Gio, were found by local residents on Tuesday inside their sport utility vehicle, which was parked by the roadside in Narra town, south of the capital of Puerto Princesa City.
The victims had bullet wounds in the head.
“We are following some leads,” said Supt. Benjamin Acardo Jr., provincial police director. He declined to divulge details.
A source privy to the investigation said lawmen were looking at “vengeance” as a motive for the killings.
Messina, according to his fellow expatriates, was a former French legionnaire who saw action in Afghanistan before retiring on a “secret island” they did not want to name but situated somewhere off the northern part of Palawan.
A local artist and a family friend said he had seen the island and described it as “like a mandala of islands, very pristine.”
“It was Palawan untouched,” the friend said.
According to the friend, Messina was training his son to be the eventual caretaker of the place.
“He was doing a lot of things on the island, protecting the corals,” said Dutch biologist Jonah Van Beijnen, who now lives in Palawan.
The Messinas had been on the island for nearly 20 years, according to police sources. They narrated how Messina chased dynamite fishers on his speedboat, armed with high-powered rifles that earned for him a reputation of being a toughie.
“He was feared by locals because he was really prepared to fight even the mighty and powerful just to protect his island,” a source said.
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