PNG Police: body belongs to boat skipper of missing researchers
Papua New Guinea police have confirmed that a body found on a group of islands in the Manus province belonged to a member of the boat crew that accompanied a group of missing researchers.
The five researchers, who work for the PNG government-funded Institute of Medical Research (IMR), went missing in waters off New Britain Island in August during a malaria research field trip. They are still listed as missing after a search and rescue operation by authorities in five maritime provinces was called off.
PNG police media unit director, Superintendent Dominic Kakas, issued a brief this morning to advise that the identity of the deceased has been confirmed by the wife and a relative who flew to Lorengau in Manus to help police with their investigations.
“The wife of the deceased recognised the picture of the sports shorts won by the skipper when the police media unit ran pictures of the clothing found on the body on the EMTV Crime Stoppers program. Manus provincial police commander Alex N’drahsal confirmed that a relative who flew into Manus has further confirmed the identity of the body,” said Mr Kakas.
He added that the deceased was the skipper of the banana boat which the researchers hired in West New Britain province. The researchers' boat was reportedly discovered on an island off Wewak in the East Sepik province. Those listed as missing are Tania Oakiva, Gibson Gideon, Leonard Vavana, George Dogoya and Lydia Petrus who were accompanied by a three-member boat crew.
Piracy has not been ruled out with police confirming that a relative of one of the missing researchers recently received a call from an unidentified caller demanding K1000 (A$430) worth of phone credits and K10,000 (A$4300) in cash.