Wednesday, 25 June 2008 3:54 PM

Police Arrest Offender After 19 Years

Police have charged a man for murdering Aussie ex-pat 19 years ago.

Detectives from the Solomon Islands Police Force (SIPF) Serious Crime Squad charged a man aged in his sixties today with the murder of an Australian ex-patriot that occurred in December 1989.

The arrest occurred after Detectives from the Serious Crime Squad worked with officers in Malaita to convince the man to surrender after 19 years on the run.

An Australia ex-patriot, James Symes aged 32, was murdered on Friday 22 December 1989 near Bahai Hill (also known as Noro Hill) in far North West Guadalcanal after two men conspired to rob him of an amount of cash that was to be used as a Christmas bonus payment to employees of Lavuro Copra Plantation.

Police will allege that the man now aged in his sixties and an associate became aware that Mr Symes who was the manager of the Copra Plantation had made arrangements to collect an amount of cash from Honiara and then make the two-hour drive from Honiara to Lavuro.

The men allegedly cut down a tree and left it at the side of the road with the intention of using it as a road block to stop Mr Symes. When the men saw the 32-year-old Australian approaching, they pulled the tree across the road.

Police will further allege that when Mr Symes exited his vehicle to remove the tree that was blocking the road, he was attacked, stabbed and robbed. Mr Symes died at the scene from injuries sustained in the attack.

The two offenders evaded Police in Guadalcanal and returned to their home in Malaita Province.

One of the men involved in the attack was charged and convicted of murder in May 1990. However, the other man remained on the run from police for 19 years until he was arrested on 23 June 2008 at Atoifi in Malaita Province.

Acting Assistant Commissioner of Crime and Intelligence, Chief Superintendent Peter Aoraunisaka, said that the arrest is a significant achievement for police after one of the longest investigations in the SIPF's history.

"This investigation has been ongoing since 1989. The Police have made many attempts over the years to capture this man but he avoided us after members of the public would tip him off about our presence and he would hide in the jungle.

"After 19 years on the run, I'm very pleased that police from the Serious Crime Squad and police in Malaita have continued to work together on this investigation. This man will now finally face justice after the unprovoked attack.

"This case clearly demonstrates the dedication of police to solving serious crimes," he said.

The man aged in his sixties surrendered to Police after negotiations between Police, RAMSI Participating Police Force Advisors and the Honourable Augustine Tanaeko were held in May and June 2008.

"I would like to thank the Honourable Minister for his efforts in convincing this man to come forward and to face prosecution after all these years.

"There are other men wanted for serious crimes that have occurred in the past. I urge them to stop hiding and come forward so they can be dealt with," Acting Assistant Commissioner Aoraunisaka said.

The man aged in his sixties was formally charged with one count of murder and one count of robbery.

He appeared in the Honiara Magistrates' Court today and was remanded in custody. He is expected to re-appear in the Magistrates' Court on 9 July 2008.