Death Ship "Murder" Might Have Been Accident

Sage Sagittarius

By Wendy Laursen 2015-09-17 23:20:00

An Australian crime scene investigator who specializes in blood patterns has cast doubt on the alleged murder of Sage Sagittarius’ chief engineer Hector Collado.

In an ongoing coronial inquest into the three fatalities on board the Sage Sagittarius, or "Death Ship", Detective Sargent Shawn Harkins said that Collado may have been killed by accident, not malice.

Collado, 57, died as a result of an 11-meter (36 foot) fall on board the bulk carrier. He had a 20mm (about .8 inch) laceration on his scalp which appeared unrelated to his fall.

He was one of two Filipino workers to die on the Sage Sagittarius while it was in Australian waters between August and October 2012. Prior to Collado’s death, Cesar Llanto, 42, disappeared overboard as the vessel approached Australian waters northeast of Cairns. The third death, that of Japanese superintendent Kosaku Monji, who was crushed to death on a conveyor belt, is beyond the scope of the enquiry as it occurred when the ship was later docked in Japan.

Harkins said that, if anyone else was there when Collado was bleeding, the stains left behind would show signs of movement.

“Certainly if Mr Collado was injured and there was another party present, I would expect there to be some disturbance of bloodstain patterns,” he told the inquest. “They would be more erratic. This is a clear and continuous blood trail.”

However, forensic pathologist Dr Brian Beer told the inquest earlier this year that Collado’s death was suspicious. Beer said no items were found at the scene that could have caused the injury.

Harkins conceded that he could not directly dispute Beer's evidence because unlike Beer, he had not personally examined the scene.

One of the crew members who had spoken at the inquest earlier in the year said he feared for his life after Llanto’s disappearance. The man, who cannot be named, told the inquest he believed Llanto’s death was neither an accident nor a suicide.

The crew member spoke of an argument between the ship’s master Venancio Salas and Llanto a week prior to the cook’s disappearance. The argument was over the captain’s order to give the crew less food, a practice he believed enabled the captain to personally take the money saved.

The inquest has previously heard that Salas was selling guns to the crew and had bullied a kitchen hand.

Australian Customs and Border Protection officials raided the Sage Sagittarius 13 times in the three years before the deaths occurred. 

The inquest is now scheduled to resume in February 2016.