A local Australian newspaper carried this headline yesterday: “No Justice for the Dead.” The story reminds readers that five years have passed since three deaths occurred on board the Sage Sagittarius – dubbed the death ship.
The chief cook, Caesar Llanto, disappeared overboard in August 30, 2012, and chief engineer Hector Collado was killed while the ship was docking at the Port of Newcastle two weeks later.
A third crew member, Kosaku Monji, died weeks later on board the same ship whilst it was moored in Japan.
Handing down her findings, the NSW Coroner, Sharon Freund, said Llanto, an experienced veteran, was either thrown overboard or killed and his body later disposed of. "I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that Mr Llanto died as a result of foul play by a person or persons on the vessel."
Collado was found to have plummeted 12 meters (40 feet) down an engineering shaft, and Freund says: "The injury that Mr Collado sustained before he fell over the handrail on the fourth deck is consistent with someone hitting him forcefully over the head.
"It would be an extraordinary coincidence if the person(s) who caused Mr Llanto's death were not also responsible for Mr Collado's death."
Since the 2012 incident no charges have been laid against anyone on board. Freund wrote that evidence suggested that the ship’s captain Venancio Salas "caused or authorized the disappearance of Mr Llanto", and knew more than he told the court.
According to media reports, the NSW Police and the Australian Federal Police have declined to say whether officers were still investigating the deaths. Both agencies say they are still considering the Coroner's findings, released in May.
Now the Philippines Government has confirmed it is considering launching its own investigation.
The Sage Sagittarius arrived at the Port of Newcastle yesterday. Meanwhile, Llanto's wife Nelia and their children now 16 and 12, along with Collado's wife Rebecca and their children and grandchildren, continue to wait for justice.