5 Jun 2003

Church reveals that murdered missionary in Solomons not the original, intended victim

6:40 pm on 5 June 2003

A Seventh Day Adventist Church official says, Lance Gersbach, the Australian missionary beheaded in Solomon Islands was not his attacker's original, intended victim.

Mr Gersbach was murdered at the church's mission hospital at Atoifi on Malaita nearly three weeks ago.

The church's Associate Health Director Dr Percy Harrold has confirmed earlier reports that the main suspect committed the murder after being refused passage on a cargo barge.

Dr Harrold says the man was refused passage because he was not willing to pay the fare.

He says the suspect claims he was insulted by the foreman, Mr Jack, who Dr Harrold says was simply doing his job.

The suspect then flew back to Atoifi and went to the hospital to carry out a revenge attack on the foreman, but when he found Mr Jack was not there, he attacked and killed Mr Gersbach.

Dr Harrold says police have spoken with the suspect but are yet to arrest him.

He says a man arrested days after the killing is believed to have encouraged the suspect to go ahead with the murder.