7 Oct 2004

PNG mystery flight pilots co-operate with authorities

2:08 pm on 7 October 2004

The Australian pilot and Australian aircraft owner of a plane which landed at the disused Aropa airport in Bougainville, are both in Port Moresby assisting the Papua New Guinea authorities with their enquiries.

The Australian High Commission says they are still trying to contact a third Australian on board, who along with a British passenger, are believed to have disappeared somewhere in Bougainville.

The Australian registered Lear jet has been impounded in Rabaul in northern Papua New Guinea.

Police say the passengers touched down in Aropa where they were escorted to Panguna by members of the Mekamui Defence Force, maintained by rebel leader, Francis Ona.

The Post Courier newspaper reports that the passengers spent two days there before returning to Buka.

The spokesperson for the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby, Matt Anderson says he hopes this will be a lesson to other foreigners travelling abroad.

"This incident, it's helped convey that message very clearly, that when people travel abroad they are subject to the laws of the country they pass though, but for us our involvement at this stage is consular, we've not been asked for any other assistance, our Australian Federal Police liaison officers at the High Commission here are liaising with their colleagues and obviously stand ready to assist with their investigations."

Matt Anderson says one of the passengers who is helping police with their enquiries is Andrew Reid.

Mr Reid claims to have arrived in Bougainville on behalf of an American company to release at least 200,000 US dollars in humanitarian relief funds.