Blood analysis raises questions over Death Ship fatality
WAS it murder or something more mundane?
A top crime scene investigator who specialises in blood patterns has disputed evidence at a coronial inquest examining three fatalities aboard the Sage Sagittarius, or "Death Ship".
His analysis indicates chief engineer Hector Collado may have been killed by accident and not by malice.
Mr Collado, 57, was one of two Filipino workers to die on the Sagittarius while it was in Australian waters between August and October 2012.
He fell 11m to his death on September 14 as the ship arrived at the Port of Newcastle.
Investigators discovered he suffered a blow to his skull in the minutes before his fatal fall.
Chief cook Cesar Llanto, 42, disappeared overboard two weeks before Mr Collado's death.
Japanese safety supervisor Kosaku Monji, 37, was crushed to death in on-board conveyor belt machinery less than three weeks after Mr Collado's death. Mr Monji's death is not being considered by the coroner.
The inquest into the deaths follows a major investigation by APN Australian Regional Media - the publishers of this newspaper.
On Thursday, New South Wales Police forensic expert Shawn Harkins said his analysis of blood droplets shown in crime scene photos led him to believe that Mr Collado was alone as he lived out his final moments.
Det Sgt Harkins said if anyone else was there when Mr Collado was bleeding, the stains left behind would show signs of movement.
"It is unlikely there was another person or people nearby Mr Collado at the time," Det Sgt Harkins told the inquest.
"Certainly if Mr Collado was injured and there was another party present, I would expect there to be some disturbance of bloodstain patterns.
"They would be more erratic.
"This is a clear and continuous blood trail."
Forensic pathologist Dr Brian Beer told the inquest earlier this year that the strike to Mr Collado and the subsequent fall that killed him were suspicious.
Dr Beer said there were no items found at the scene that could have caused the injury, or featured traces of Mr Collado's hair or blood.
Det Sgt Harkins told Counsel Assisting Philip Strickland and Deputy Coroner Sharon Freund he could not dispute Dr Beer's evidence because unlike Dr Beer, Det Sgt Harkins had not personally examined the scene.
As the inquest wrapped up, Det Sgt Harkins conceded that while he felt it was "unlikely" that Mr Collado had been attacked, it was not something he could rule out.
The inquest has previously revealed a culture of homophobic abuse, illegal gun running and a "culture of silence" on board.
The inquest is scheduled to resume in February 2016.