The Sage Sagittarius
The Sage Sagittarius

Death Ship inquest: Blood analysis finds foul play 'unlikely'


And that's it. After months of waiting for the inquest into how two men died aboard the Sage Sagittarius, the inquest has again wrapped up until February next year.

The Thursday sitting was devoted to hearing from session on Thursday was devoted to questioning New South Wales Police blood-pattern analyst Shawn Harkins.

Detective Sergeant Harkins provided new evidence that suggested that chief engineer Hector Collado's death -- the second aboard the Sagittarius in late 2012 -- may not be suspicious.

In contrast to evidence given earlier in the year, Det Sgt Harkins said the blood evidence showed it was unlikely that others were involved in his death.

This flies in the face of findings made by Newcastle forensic pathologist Dr Brian Beer who told the inquest the engineer's death was suspicious.

Counsel assisting Philip Strickland asked Det Sgt Harkins if his findings meant he could rule out foul play in the engineer's death.

Det Sgt Harkins said while it was "most likely" that others were not involved in the fatality, he could not rule it out.

The next tranche of inquest sittings will begin in February.



UPDATE: 11.46AM Doubts raised over death of engineer

ONE of Australia's foremost blood-pattern analysis experts has raised doubts over how a chief engineer was killed aboard the Sage Sagittarius, or "Death Ship".

Filipino engineer Hector Collado was somehow struck on the skull in the moments before he fell 11m to his death as the merchant vessel arrived at the Port of Newcastle on September 14, 2012.

On Thursday New South Wales Police Detective Sergeant Shawn Harkins gave evidence, analysing hundreds of blood droplets left behind by Mr Collado after he suffered a blow to the head.

Det Sgt Harkins told the inquest he considered it "extremely unlikely" that Mr Collado was attacked by others on board, because the drops of blood were undisturbed, except potentially by Mr Collado himself.

Hector Collado
Hector Collado

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 blood stain 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.

Aboard the death ship: An Australian Regional Media investigation
Aboard the death ship: An Australian Regional Media investigation

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 said he could not dispute Dr Beer's evidence because unlike Dr Beer, Det Sgt Harkins had not personally examined the scene.

Mr Collado was one of three men who died aboard the Sage Sagittarius inside a six-period in late 2012.



UPDATE 10.40AM:  Forensic expert to explain blood at scene

A FORENSIC expert from New South Wales Police will be the primary witness on Thursday as the state's coroner continues to examine how three men came to die aboard the Sage Sagittarius, the so-called "Death Ship" in late 2012.

Detective Sergeant Shawn Harkins is expected to answer questions from Counsel Assisting Philip Strickland and others on how the ship's chief engineer Hector Collado fell to his death on September 14, 2012.

It is understood his evidence will decipher the incident through the splatters of blood at the scene.

Mr Collado was the second of three fatalities aboard the ship, over a six week period.

The inquest has previously heard that Mr Collado suffered a strike to the skull in the moments before his fatal fall.

Experts have told the Coroner's Court there appeared no way for the blow to have been accidental.

Chief Cook Cesar Llanto disappeared overboard two weeks prior to Mr Collado's death as the ship headed towards Newcastle, about 900km off the coast of Central Queensland.

Both Mr Collado and Mr Llanto were Filipino seafarers, their deaths considered suspicious.

A third fatality - that of Japanese safety supervisor Kosaku Monji - occurred after the ship returned to Japan.

Mr Monji was crushed to death in the conveyor belt machinery on October 3.

His death falls outside the scope of this inquest.

As of Wednesday night, the Sagittarius was travelling north off Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

The Sage Sagittarius off the Sunshine Coast on Wednesday night.
The Sage Sagittarius off the Sunshine Coast on Wednesday night.



Death Ship inquest: Coroner returns to examine fatalities

GUN running, homophobic abuse and claims of murder have already been exposed at a coronial inquest into two deaths aboard the Sage Sagittarius but there is more to come.

This morning launches the third sitting of the inquest examining how two Filipino sailors were killed in late 2012 aboard the coal-carrying merchant ship, now dubbed the "Death Ship".

Ship managers Hachiuma Steamship and owners NYK Line were instructed by the Coroner in June to dig up more information on the deaths of its two workers.

Chief cook Cesar Llanto disappeared overboard about 800km off the coast of Mackay on August 30, 2012. Two weeks later on September 14, chief engineer Hector Collado fell 11m to his death as the ship arrived at the Port of Newcastle. Forensic teams discovered the engineer had suffered a serious blow to his skull before his fatal fall.

Japanese safety superintendent Kosaku Monji would be the third fatality aboard the Sagittarius, while docked at a Japanese harbour. The inquest is not examining Mr Monji's death.

In late June, Hachiuma executive Kazuhiro Hayashi told the inquest that audio from the ship's voyage recorder - akin to a plane's black box - had been overwritten on the days Collado and Llanto were killed.

Mr Hayashi also told the inquest the company had not investigated the two deaths, preferring to leave the probe to Australian and international authorities.

APN Australian Regional Media -- the publishers of this website --  revealed that testimony conflicted with the company's earlier public statements that it was investigating the three deaths internally.

It remains unclear whether a representative from Hachiuma or NYK Line will face questions this week.

The inquest's first sitting in late May revealed ship captain Venancio Salas Jr was illegally selling guns to seafarers on board the Sagittarius. The captain was also accused of physically abusing Jessie Martinez, a young gay sailor who was friends with both the victims.

Capt Salas admitted to running guns but denied any other wrongdoing on board.

Capt Salas accused an oiler named Raul Vercede of killing Mr Llanto, a claim Mr Vercede has denied to investigators.

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