By Pamela Roth
When John Oughtred and his new girlfriend Rebecca King Jones arrived at their vacation rental home in Bocas del Toro, Panama at the end of October, it was time for a celebration.
Having just travelled two days to reach the tropical island paradise, the couple went out for a nice dinner, then cracked open a bottle of wine when they later returned to their property.
Around 2:30 a.m., King Jones went downstairs to get more wine. Instead, she discovered an intruder on the balcony — a masked man draped in camouflage holding a gun. King Jones screamed, prompting Oughtred to rush downstairs and check out what was going on.
“There wasn't a lot of time to react,” said Oughtred. “My initial thought was I need to get this guy off the balcony. I just ran at him and tried to get as close as possible to knock the gun out of the way.”
Oughtred hit the man hard into the balcony railing, causing the gun to fall to the ground. Being a former rugby player, Ougthred picked the man up over his shoulder and tossed him over the side, dropping him about 25 feet.
Ten minutes later, the police arrived and took the suspect into custody.
“It was that fight or flight mentality. My concern was just to eliminate the threat,” said Oughtred, who met King Jones about three weeks prior to the trip.
During the next few days the nightmare continued for the Victoria couple, who waited at their vacation home for 10 hours while police investigated the scene of the crime. According to Oughtred, the man was known to police and was a suspect in several other tourist robberies in the area.
The struggle with the suspect caused Oughtred to blow out his knee, which he had surgery on about a year ago. He could barely walk, so the pair soon flew back to Panama City and arranged flights back to Victoria, turning their 16-day vacation into about a week.
Working as the co-owner of a coffee and tea business in Victoria, Oughtred has travelled extensively through central and south America. It's an area he enjoys visiting, but the 38-year-old admits there's times he has felt uneasy. Nonetheless, Oughtred never expected to become the victim of a crime.
“It can happen anywhere. I wouldn't put it on the people there. I think it was more the individual than the place,” he said.
“We were so disappointed we weren't able to hit the beaches. It's such a gorgeous place there, but it kind of makes you realize how different the situation could have gone. There's been a lot of reflection since the incident and a tremendous amount of support from back home.”
Even though the couple were left shaken by the incident, Oughtred would like to return to Panama some time in the future. In the mean time, the couple has plans to visit Maui for 10 days in December.