Australian coroner finds 2 Filipino seamen were killed

Photo via Arabnews.com

By Rod McGuirk/AP – Two Filipino seamen who died two weeks apart during a Japanese coal carrier’s voyage to Australia in 2012 were killed by one or more assailants, an Australian coroner said Wednesday.

New South Wales state Deputy Coroner Sharon Freund recommended that her report on the two deaths be sent to Japanese authorities who investigated a third death discovered when the same Panama-flagged carrier, the MV Sage Sagittarius, returned to Japan.

The series of the deaths over five weeks has led to the Sage Sagittarius being dubbed the “Death Ship” by the media. The extraordinary events highlighted difficulties in criminal investigations involving so-called flag of convenience ships, which are registered in countries foreign to their owners, operators and crews. No one has been charged over any of the deaths.

The Filipinos — head chef Cesar Llanto, 42, and chief engineer Hector Collado, 55 — were part of a 25-member all-Filipino crew that left the Japanese port of Kudamatsu aboard the carrier operated by one of the world’s biggest shipping companies, Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, on Aug. 20, 2012, bound for the Australian port of Newcastle.

Llanto vanished in international waters 10 days later. Freund found that he was either thrown overboard or killed on the ship and his body disposed of later by one or more unknown assailants. His body was never found.

Two weeks after the chef’s death, Collado died after falling 11.5 meters (38 feet) from one deck to another as the ship entered Newcastle Harbor. The coroner found Collado, who was second in charge of the ship and potentially a key witness in Llanto’s disappearance, had been struck over the head with a weapon by one or more culprits.

The third fatality was Kosaku Monji, a 37-year-old supervisor employed by the ship’s Japanese operator who joined the Sage Sagittarius with two security guards four days after the chef disappeared.

Monji was found dead on Oct. 6, three days after the ship returned to Kudamatsu. His body was trapped between a conveyor belt and roller that was unloading coal.

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