MP seeks answers over lengthy 'murder ship' investigation

A SUPREME Court solicitor turned MP is asking the AFP to explain how its investigation into a cargo-carrier dubbed the "murder ship" has blown out to more than 16 months.

The AFP is examining the death of Filipino senior cook Cesar Llanto who disappeared overboard from the Sage Sagittarius on August 30, 2012 as it approached Australian waters north-west of Cairns.

At the Port of Hay Point between Mackay and Rockhampton in Central Queensland, more than 800 ships similar to the Sage Sagittarius are loaded each year, most crewed by Filipino seafarers.

Mr Llanto was the first of three deaths on the Sagittarius over a six week period, earning it the nickname of "the murder or death ship" by the International Transport Workers Federation.

Both the AFP and New South Wales Police - which is investigating a separate death on the ship - delivered evidence to the NSW Coroner last week.

Queensland Solicitor and Federal Opposition MP Graham Perrett said "any sensible person" would be concerned about the pattern of deaths aboard the Sagittarius, owned by Japanese firm NYK Line and subsidiary Hachiuma Steamship.

He said with a state coroner's appointment looming, the AFP should undertake an internal review of its investigation.

"The longer that (the investigation) takes, the colder the trail gets," Mr Perrett said.

"It's just having a senior set of eyes to look over the evidence, the affidavits, the statements and the information already provided about the incident."

Mr Perrett chaired the 2013 "Crimes at Sea" inquiry into the death of Dianne Brimble who died while aboard a foreign-owned cruise ship.

The scope of the inquiry included foreign-owned cargo carriers.

His concerns over the length of the AFP's investigation are shared by government backbencher Dr Sharman Stone and Greens Senator Penny Wright.

Coalition MP Dr Sharman Stone also worked on the Crimes at Sea inquiry, alongside Mr Perrett.

Dr Stone said 16 months was a "very long time" for the investigation to still be running, and it was "important to be identifying why it did take so long".

Dr Stone said a review ahead of a coronial inquiry may not be possible but another look at the AFP's work "couldn't do any harm".

Australian Greens' justice spokeswoman Senator Wright said it was "important that all police investigations happen in a timely manner" to be effective.

The Philippine Government also weighed in, an embassy spokeswoman saying it "welcomed any initiatives that will help resolve the cases".

For now, the AFP has no plans to review its investigation into the Sage Sagittarius.

A spokesman said AFP's work with local and international authorities, foreign companies and overseas witnesses made the case "complex and protracted".

"All evidence collected as part of the investigation was required to meet the requirements and standards for a coronial process," he said.

The NSW Coroner's Court is yet to allocate a coroner to the case.

STORY SO FAR

-Aug 30, 2012: At 8am Filipino chief cook aboard Sage Sagittarius disappears overboard. AFP begins investigation
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-Sept 14, 2012: At 8.30am, Filipino chief engineer Hector Collado has a fatal fall from "engine room second deck to fourth deck" while in Port of Newcastle. NSW Police investigating
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-Oct 6, 2012: A Japanese safety superintendent who boarded the ship in Australia is killed when the Sagittarius docks in Japan after falling into conveyor belt machinery. Japanese Police are investigating.
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-Jan 15, 2014: Advocates and shipping experts condemn 16-month investigation, warning delays may have hindered the case.
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-Jan 17, 2014: AFP and NSW Police provided coronial brief to NSW Coroner's Court.
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-Jan 20, 2014: Ship owner NYK Line confirms it has conducted internal investigation but will not make it public.



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