Six cleared of young man’s death on Santo

The Supreme Court of Vanuatu has this week acquitted six young men charged with assaulting and drowning a Year Ten student who was found dead in the Sarakata River in Luganville last June.

The six young men had been charged with assaulting and drowning Christian Liniel, a Lycee de Luganville student, on 17 June 2020.

A post-mortem confirmed Christian had died as a result of an assault and drowning.

The six acquitted defendants are Tino Gavick, Emil Jacob, Brian Jacob, Kambol Magreveth, David Nono and Cliff Tula.

The Supreme Court’s Justice Andre Wiltens said the prosecution’s evidence as to who had participated in the assault rested solely on the evidence of Vira Leo, the young man’s uncle who had witnessed the event.

Justice Wiltens said he did not regard Mr Leo as a credible or reliable witness; and that there was no acceptable evidence to confirm who was involved in the drowning of Christian.

He ruled the prosecution’s case had rested on circumstantial evidence that was insufficient to establish a prima facie case.

“Even when considering all the evidence on a global basis I do not consider any of the defendants have a case to answer,” Justice Wiltens said.

He acquitted all six defendants.

Christian Liniel’s father, Sylvain Bosiati, said he is unhappy about the court’s decision.

“I don’t agree on the decision of the Supreme Court,” Mr Bosiati said outside the court.

“This death broke my heart because my child was my future.”

Mr Bosiati did not confirm whether or not he will appeal the court’s decision.

Chief Kami Mida, a chief of the Pepsi area on Santo where the death occurred, says he is also unhappy about the court’s decision as someone had died but no-one had been found responsible.

“Even though we haven’t found the perpetrators of this crime [as yet], if [knowledge of] this crime is in your heart, you have to tell the truth,” Chief Mida said.

“It may not be revealed now but it will be revealed in the future. You have to change because with God nothing can be hidden.”

Chief Mida called on people in the Pepsi area to take care, uphold the law and stop any acts of violence.

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