97 convicted for murder

A total of 97 people from Ramu in Madang have been convicted in what was the country’s biggest trial over the wilful murder of seven people, including two children, in 2014.

The men from Serengo, Gomumu, Goiro, Niningo, Numbaya and Saranga villages in Ramu will return before Justice David Cannings at the Madang National Court next month.

Submissions on sentence will be made to the court before a sentence is handed down at a later date.

The 97 men pleaded not guilty to the charge of wilful murder in April 2017, which saw the commencement of their trial.

On the early morning of Monday 14 April, 2014, a large group of men and youths were involved in a group march along the Bruce Jephcott Highway for about 10 kilometres from Ranara Village.

They were armed with assorted weapons, including bush knives and homemade guns.

The armed group was known as “the Hausman” and had their faces painted with charcoal. The group comprised men and youths from villages including Gomumu village in the mountains to the west of Ramu town.

The group was formed following concerns about a number of deaths in and around Gomumu, attributed to sorcery. Some suspected sorcerers fled and took up residence with relatives in Sakiko village.

On their way to Sakiko, some members of the group attacked and killed a bystander, intending to cause his death.

The group then proceeded to Sakiko and raided it, destroying property including houses and food gardens, threatening and chasing away many residents.

Six others were killed, including two boys aged three and seven years old. Two of the seven killed had their skull split open after they were chopped.

Fourteen witnesses gave oral evidence for the State, nine of whom were village residents and presented as eyewitnesses.

The other five witnesses were police officers who were in the vicinity of the incident or involved in the investigation of the incident.

All the accused (now convicted persons) remained silent during the trial.

The only evidence adduced by the defence was a witness statement by one of the State witnesses which was said to be an inconsistent one.

One of the accused died after the trial was conducted, while awaiting verdict of the court.

Eight were directly involved in the wilful murder of the seven deceased. 

The court found that the state proved beyond reasonable doubt that each of the seven deceased were unlawfully killed by the 97 men.

Through their participation in the group’s activities, each of the accused did acts for the purpose of enabling and aiding those who directly committed the offences, to commit the offences, and aided them in committing the offences, the consequence being that each of the accused was by virtue of Sections 7(1)(b) and (c) of the Criminal Code guilty of seven counts of wilful murder, as charged.

Sally Pokiton