22 May 2003

Uncertainty in Solomon Islands over land dispute theory in missionary killing

10:53 am on 22 May 2003

Seventh Day Adventist church officials in Solomon Islands say they have seen no sign that last Sunday's killing of Australian missionary Lance Gersbach was the result of a dispute over land.

Mr Gersbach, the acting chief executive of the church's hospital complex at Atoifi on Malaita, was beheaded while working on a building site there.

Police have suggested there is a land dispute theory.

When the hospital was established in 1962 another missionary was killed in a land dispute, but a church official, Martin Losi, says as far as he knows that issue had been long resolved.

"Up to this point in time as a church we do not know whether it is a land issue. The police are out there at the moment and I can confirm to you now what you hear about the land is just rumours floating around. Until it is confirmed we cannot say for certain at this time."

Martin Losi