Wed, Jul 21, 2004 - Page 16 News List

What's bred in the bone will out in the flesh...

... Is a well known saying that has failed to stand up to scrutiny on Norfolk Island, until recently

DPA , Sydney

Norfolk Island's view of itself as a South Pacific paradise free from crime, road rage, vice, gambling, drugs, fast food restaurants and even the mobile phone and AIDS was upset on a rainy Sunday afternoon two years ago when the body of Janelle Patton was found wrapped in black plastic at a picnic spot.

Patton, a newcomer among the 1,800 islanders who trace their ancestry back to the British sailors who overpowered Captain Fletcher Christian and took over the HMS Bounty in 1789, had sustained 64 separate injuries in an attack so frenzied it shocked coroner Ron Cahill.

"It's one of the worst cases I've seen in excess of 30 years in the criminal justice system," Cahill told an inquest three weeks ago.

It was the first murder on the island since 1855 when Norfolk ceased to be a penal colony and began its modern history as a self-governing Australian territory 1,400 kilometers east of Brisbane.

The 20km2 speck was settled by the descendants of the Bounty mutineers in 1856. They arrived there from Pitcairn Island with their Tahitian wives and an independent streak that is still reflected in the requirement that visitors from Australia need to bring their passports along.

Despite fingerprinting and DNA testing, a bevy of Canberra detectives and a media scrum, the killer of 29-year-old Patton has yet to be found and the coroner's inquest concluded with an open verdict. Now, the Canberra detectives are back on Norfolk Island investigating another murder.

The victim of the shooting this week is 60-year-old Ivens "Toon" Buffett, a Bounty descendant and one of the four ministers who ran Norfolk Island. Police say he was shot dead in his office by his son, 25-year-old Leith Buffett, who has been charged with his murder.

There is no obvious link with Patton's death in March 2002 but the father of the Sydney-born restaurant manager hopes that a second killing will help solve the riddle of the first.

"We feel that maybe some information could come from the island as a result of this that would be a result of people realizing that these things can happen, that Janelle's murder wasn't just maybe a one-off, they happen in all communities around the world," said Ron Patton, Janelle's father.

The Pattons, who were on the island the day their daughter was murdered in their first visit since honeymooning there in 1968, have voiced exasperation at the level of cooperation the locals have offered the police.

"We don't know who it was, and we are not going to judge people," Ron Patton said. "We're going to leave that to police."

The police, too, have been disappointed at the lack of cooperation. They had expected an easy case.

Every adult on the island at the time of the murder has filled in a questionnaire and detective Brendan Lindsay was optimistic of wrapping up the investigation quickly.

"We've got an isolated population and we can identify every individual that was on the island that day," he said at the start of the enquiry. "It's a matter of just narrowing things down."

Linday's optimism was misplaced.

Local newspaper editor Tom Lloyd, who earlier this year described Norfolk Island -- which relies on tourism, fishing and avocado growing -- as "an oasis of peace in a troubled world," has spoken of a stark change since the murders in people's perception of the place they call home.

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