21 Mar 2016

Vanuatu hotelier eager to move on after son cleared of murder

From , 4:04 pm on 21 March 2016

Ned Lowe's father is eager to carry on with his business in Vanuatu now his son's been cleared of murder.

Last year the teenager was charged with the murder of his friend Roger Kamisak.

The Supreme Court has now thrown out the case.

Ned's father, Hugh Lowe, runs Tanna Lodge, which was partially destroyed by fire in an attack by locals last year.

He says the case has taken a huge toll on his family and business.

But he said in a statement he's relieved to put the case behind him and says while tourism in Vanuatu is currently suffering a downturn, he's open for business and looking forward to an influx later this year.

Our reporter Alex Perrottet spoke to Susie Ferguson about the case

ALEX PERROTTET:  The Supreme Court Justice Oliver Saksak basically threw it out, saying there was just no conclusive evidence and this is after a September decision earlier by a magistrate that there was enough evidence to go to court.  Ned Lowe, who is only 18 years old, has basically spent all that time, well he was arrested in July and he has spent that time in prison so we can understand the frustration from Hugh Lowe. He said that the knife that allegedly was used was not even produced in court other photographs were not used there was no autopsy report and the list goes on. And this is following a series of incidents on Tanna Island last year. It started earlier in the year and police were at the time quite cautious to point out that they might not all be related to the incident of the death there was a series of burnings even before Tanna Lodge was burnt down. There was a contractor's truck that was burnt as well there is ongoing disputes there basically over land between villagers between people that run Tanna Lodge and so there is a lot of confusion over what is related to what but certainly Hugh Lowe relieved that his son has been set free and they can get on with their lives.

SUSIE FERGUSON: There has been a more recent arson also Alex at another property in Vanuatu is this a common occurrence and what is it that police are doing about it?

AP: Well that is right, that arson is on Malekula Island again another dispute between two villagers it does seem to be the way that things are settled that payback is brought about in Vanuatu. The police we spoke to the police last week in July who said they are under-resourced and they don't have the manpower particularly their in Tanna where these ongoing issues are happening with Tanna Lodge to control basically the locals taking the law into their own hands. They did arrest over thirty people though in August and they are still behind bars and that is for obstructing the course of Justice that is the police investigation also arson and kidnapping it is remarkable really to see that Hugh Lowe and his family are rebuilding the lodge and operating it now and wanting tourists to come it is certainly a brave move and something that we are going to keep and eye on just to see how tourism does hopefully pick up in Tanna.