09 November 2017

Charged with manslaughter


FORMER fugitive Edmond Sae has been acquitted on Wednesday of the murder of the former Police Commissioner Sir Frederick Soaki in 2003 at Auki Motel in Auki, Malaita.

Justice John Brown had Sae acquitted due to the inconsistencies of the evidences of the Crown witnesses.

Despite being acquitted of this murder, Sae, a former police officer was convicted and sentenced to 20 years for manslaughter.

This was in relation to the manslaughter of an inmate Saeni Orea at Auki Police Station during which Sae used a machine gun in the shoot out on 30 April 2003.

Sae was also sentenced to six months imprisonment for the possession of the machine gun.

Both sentences were ordered to run concurrently.

The accused had already served more than two years in custody after he was recaptured in 2015.

Sae committed these offences after he escaped police custody in 22 April 2003.

He was in police custody for allegedly gunning down Sir Frederick on the early evening of 10 February 2003 at Auki Motel.

Sir Fredrick was attending a workshop with other participants at Auki on the demobilisation programme for special constables.

He was sitting at a table to the entrance door on the first floor of the motel building when a masked gun man, alleged to be Sae, killed him with a bullet wound to the chest.

The defence case was that the identification of the gunman to have been Sae has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt while the Crown case was that three people recognised the gunman to be Sae and that on the evidence of others, a circumstantial case has been made out sufficient for the court to be satisfied to the requisite degree.

Three witnesses said they saw Sae, one was with the deceased at the time the gun man shot him and was only a few feet away, another was in her kitchen downstairs at the time the shot was fired and another, a neighbour across the road who said she saw Sae running away.

Four other police associates of the Sae who were with him leading up to the shooting also told the court of Sae’s intentions to shoot Sir Frederick.

Another witness in the room with Sir Frederick who witnessed the killing was however unable to identify the gunman for the reason the gunman wore a scarf covering his head.

Justice Brown however said their evidences of the witnesses as to recognising Sae are unreliable, and their evidences had left him in real doubt about their veracity.

In relation to a witness who was in the room with Sir Frederick, Justice Brown said his opportunity to sight the shooter was short.

“The man came into the room, raised the gun, shot Sir Frederick and decamped immediately back out of sight down stairs,

“He could not have been identified by facial recognition.

“His actions in raising a gun and firing one would expect, would somewhat shock and active remembrance of other details such as his clothing (other than the recollection of the raised hand, gun and explosion) has been shown to be suspect.”

Justice Brown said he cannot in these circumstances accept this witness’s assertion that he recognised the man at the time especially when he did not blurt out perhaps to the other witness, who was also there, that the shooter was Sae.

“There has been no direct evidence to connect Sae with possession of a 9mm pistol at the time of the shooting and whilst the other witnesses (four police officers ) with him that afternoon, none specially describe a pistol which may be inferred to be a 9mm weapon.

“The trial has been conducted some 14 years after the event.

“I accept memories would be suspect after such time but statements taken at the time maybe so contemporaneous as to afford this court as basis for reliance on the evidence of these witnesses,” Justice Brown said referring to evidences of the four police officers.

“In all, I am unable to accept their veracity, for their earlier evidence by statements during the course of the investigation and tendered in this trial are neither internally convincing of their participating in acts leading to these killing, nor verifiable by careful consideration of others’ statements.

Justice Brown said the weakness in the Crown case rests with their changeable testimony, both with-in some cases, various statements and others, under cross examination in court.

“I do not propose to individually touch on these inconsistencies but the aggregate effect is to leave me with the conclusion their later evidence had been contrived to effect but they failed to convince me of their veracity,” he said.

The lengthy trial that commenced in February this year has been conducted in a closed court from the media and the public due to fears expressed by prosecution witnesses.

The hearing of evidences in this trial continued on throughout the year except during the months of the Court of Appeal sittings and few other times when counsels were not available.

It finally ended on October 10.

Howard Lawry and Ben Alasia of Public Solicitor’s office represent Sae while the Director of Public Prosecution Ronald Bei Talasasa and his counsel Margaret Suifa’asia are prosecuting.