PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Elderly women beheaded
Two elderly women were beheaded after being tortured for three days, a report said yesterday, the latest in a string of sorcery-related crimes. The Post-Courier newspaper said police were present during the killings last week, but were outnumbered by an angry mob and could do nothing to prevent the grisly deaths. “We were helpless. We could not do anything,” Bougainville police inspector Herman Birengka told the paper, saying his officers were threatened when they tried to negotiate the women’s release. According to Birengka, who described the murders as “barbaric and senseless,” the women were taken captive on Tuesday last week by relatives of a former school teacher who died recently. “The two women were rounded up and taken to Lopele village after they were suspected of practicing sorcery and blamed for the death of the former teacher, who was from Lopele village,” he said. They were tortured for three days, suffering knife and axe wounds, before being beheaded in front of the police, who had been sent to the village to mediate, the report said. The killings come just days after another report that six women accused of sorcery were tortured with hot irons in an Easter “sacrifice” in the Southern Highlands.
Plane crash bodies found
Navy divers have recovered the bodies of a US wireless executive and his wife after the plane he was piloting crashed in the South Pacific. Eric Hertz, an experienced amateur pilot, radioed authorities on March 30 to say an engine had failed on the couple’s twin-engine Beechcraft Baron. He and his wife Kathy, a university employee, had left from an airport near Auckland bound for the South Island town of Timaru. Divers recovered a second body on Sunday after recovering the first on Saturday near Kawhia Harbor.
Bus plunge kills five
Five people died, including a seven-month-old baby and a Belgian woman, and 53 were injured when a tour bus plummeted off a hillside after its brakes failed, police said yesterday. Passengers said the bus had swerved several times on winding mountain roads, before it ploughed through a fence and down a steep ravine, according to police in Phitsanulok Province. “Five people were killed — two men and three women, including one woman from Belgium — and a seven-month-old baby boy,” district police Captain Sane Promrut told reporters by telephone. He said the bus, which was traveling from Udonthani Province to Chiang Mai, plunged about 20m in the early morning crash. Police said the dead Belgian was in her early twenties.
Death sentence upheld
An court yesterday upheld the death sentence handed down to a 56-year-old British grandmother found guilty of trafficking cocaine into Bali. A spokesman said the Bali High Court had confirmed the death sentence given to Lindsay Sandiford in January, which had been a shock verdict after prosecutors recommended 15 years imprisonment. The court “decided to uphold the decision of the district court,” said spokesman Makkasau, who like many Indonesians goes by one name. Police say she was at the center of a drugs importing ring involving three other Britons after a drugs haul worth US$2.4 million was found in her suitcase as she arrived on a flight from Bangkok in May last year. She can now appeal to the Supreme Court.
Filmmaker Blank dies at 77
Filmmaker Les Blank, whose documentaries on blues musicians and a range of other subjects won acclaim, has died at age 77. Harrod Blank says his father, whose 42 films earned him a lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute, died of cancer on Sunday at his home in California. Les Blank’s early films focused on musicians, including 1960s portraits of trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and blues guitarist Lightnin’ Hopkins. He shifted to food with documentaries like 1980’s Garlic is as Good as 10 Mothers and 2007’s All in This Tea. However, his best-known work was on fellow filmmaker Werner Herzog, including 1982’s Burden of Dreams, where his behind-the-scenes view of the making of Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo became a classic chronicle of artistic obsession.
Seven die in brewery mishap
Mexico City authorities say seven workers died while cleaning a tank at a Grupo Modelo brewery. A spokeswoman for city prosecutors says the accident occurred early on Sunday and that investigators are looking into whether the workers died from inhaling toxic fumes. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to discuss the case. Plant manager Francisco Lopez Bravo told local media the workers were trapped inside the cistern while doing maintenance work.
FARC official arrives for talks
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) says high-ranking leader Pablo Catatumbo arrived in Havana on Saturday to join peace talks with the Colombian government. The FARC published a photograph on Sunday of Catatumbo with two guerrillas in Havana. The 60-year-old Catatumbo is leader of the FARC’s western front and he is said to be a key lieutenant of commander Alfonso Cano. FARC and Colombian government representatives have been in negotiations in Cuba since the fall.
Body of Dutch farmer found
Police say they have found the body of a missing Dutch farmer and have detained his wife as a suspect in the killing. Petrus Jacobus Gerardus Dekker had been missing for 10 days before he was found with four gunshot wounds in the Santa Cruz region. His hands and feet had been tied. His wife, Ruth Miriam Callau, had reported his disappearance on March 28 and an autopsy determined he died the same day. Anti-Crime Force Director Jhonny Requena on Sunday said Callau is suspected of paying a worker US$4,000 to find somebody to kill Dekker, though the motive was not clear. She has denied involvement in the crime.
Burmese immigrants protest
Members of one of the largest communities of Burmese immigrants in the country held a demonstration in Indiana on Sunday to call attention to sectarian violence targeting Muslims in Myanmar. About Burmese who resettled in the Fort Wayne area gathered outside the Allen County Courthouse to protest the violence in their homeland. AyeMin Zaphun told WANE-TV that the protest was called to spread awareness about the Myanmar government and extremist Buddhists who are targeting Muslims. “We want the world to know that in Burma, innocent people are dying. They’re burning children alive,” Zaphun said. He said some of the Fort Wayne immigrants will travel to New York City in the next couple of weeks to hold protests there.