PNG police hope recaptured prisoner can shed light on missing scientists
Hopes of a breakthrough in the search for five PNG scientists, missing for more than two years.
Papua New Guinea police hope further interrogation of a recaptured prisoner will shed more light on the fate of five scientists who disappeared off West New Britain more than 2 years ago.
The prisoner, Don Aka, has told police that the two women scientists that were in the group are still alive and being held captive in remote mountainous areas of the province.
The deputy police commissioner Simon Kauba says there is little police can say at this point.
Don Wiseman asked him if Aka has indicated if he was responsible for the scientists' disappearance.
SIMON KAUBA: No, that information is unavailable. But we were strongly suspicious that he may well be responsible with a number of other escapees who are also on the run.
DON WISEMAN: There are suggestions in the local media that at least the two women scientists might still be alive.
SK: Well, that's the revelation we've got. But there's no real concrete information as to them being still alive today. We have no strong position on that. But we believe they're still around, they're still alive somewhere in the village or in the bush of West New Britain province. But I can't really say whether we are certain about them being still alive today.
DW: But in some form of custody? Being held by someone?
SK: Yes, we suspected all along, in that respect. And the guy who we thought might have been responsible for the illegal detention was this guy we picked out from West New Britain the other day through the collective efforts by the village leaders and our intel people in West New Britain.
DW: So as you learn more from this escaped prisoner Don Aka...?
SK: Certainly. That's what we have begun to do. We're still screening him, questioning him in respect to his whereabouts in the last two years. Because he comes from there and he knows the locality, the vegetation, everything else. The two female scientists may have been fed on shrubs and other local food in the area. This is very remote at this stage, but from the questions we're putting to him... He's not talking too much, but we're hoping to get some valid information out of that questioning.
DW: Police are convinced that the three male scientists have died.
SK: We have no concrete evidence to suggest that, but we firmly believe that every possible place where they may be hiding have been searched thoroughly by the emergency services prior to the police engagement. So even our thorough search of the area, we have been unable to locate any clues at all. So we suspect that they might have also died.
DW: Where does the investigation go from this point, as far as the scientists go?
SK: We've got a few investigators and they're really handicapped by a lack of adequate funding for their mobility. The geographical area of West New Britain is just too difficult. The terrain makes it impossible for police to move around. The shortage of funding is another area that's really hampering the police progress. But we are actually seeing the provincial government [Indistinct]. We would like to move funds that would allow all our investigators to thoroughly look into the areas that we haven't been to. West New Britain consists of a number of smaller islands and we'd like to go into those areas and search thoroughly, but we can't do that with a lack of adequate assistance.
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