19 Sep 2013

Police worried about retribution over PNG trekking attacks

4:33 pm on 19 September 2013

The Police Commander of Morobe province in Papua New Guinea is concerned boiling anger over the attacks on trekkers along the Black Cat Track last week could lead to more violence.

Police have already arrested four men over the attack where two local porters were hacked to death, several foreign and local trekkers injured, and a third porter later died from his injuries.

On Saturday, relatives of one of the dead porters allegedly killed a man believed to have harboured the six suspects.

Superintendent Leo Lamei is concerned angry villagers will seek further retribution and has appealed for the two remaining suspects to surrender to police.

He told Bridget Tunnicliffe 74 personnel are involved in the hunt and believes the two men are hiding out in thick bushland.

LEO LAMEI: They're around between Wau and Salamaua their exact location I don't know, but we are getting the village people to assist us to give us the location where they are. At the moment, they do not stay in one area. They move around and it makes it difficult for police to catch them.

BRIDGET TUNNICLIFFE: Are you concerned about potential acts of retribution? We've already had someone allegedly killed by the family of a porter that died?

LL: Yes, I am afraid of that. That is why I went to newspapers and the radio to ask the remaining suspect to voluntarily surrender to police. If they are afraid of police they should surrender to the village councillors, residents and the pastors of the local church, and they can hand them to us.

BT: So for their own safety they are better off surrendering?

LL: Yeah. I ask them to come for their own safety. But I've already requested to the village people that they should not take law into their hands. They just capture or take. If the suspect is located they should safely hand them to police, not to injure them nor to kill them. That's my request to the people living in the villages between Wau and Salamaua.

BT:The people that allegedly killed a man accused of harbouring the men implicated in the killing of the porters last week, have any arrests been made of those people?

LL: Not yet. We are now... We take one at a time. We are now concentrating on the suspect who ambushed and killed the two porters and seriously injured the six others. Yes, we know the suspect who killed the [accomplice] of the one of the suspects, but we will get him. We know where he is and we know the identity. But as soon as we've finished that, we will go and make a further investigation to arrest that person.