Accused Assassin Lays Low As Howard Denies Involvement In Plot To Assassinate Solomon Islands' Prime Minister
A follow-up to our story here on the alleged conspiracy to kill the Solomon Islands' prime minister by an Australian ex-pat.
The Australian prime minister, John Howard, dismissed claims that his government was somehow involved in the plot, or had offered a $50,000 bounty for a successful slaying of the Solomon Islands prime minister.
"Did we try and get anybody to assassinate the prime minister of the Solomon Islands? Of course not," Howard said.
"It is preposterous to suggest that the Australian government had any involvement in this alleged assassination attempt," read a statement from his office.
"We would expect that these allegations would be rigorously and fairly examined, that innuendo would be dismissed and the facts would be established."From news.com.au (excerpts) :
An accused assassin hiding in the jungle in the Solomon Islands is allegedly involved in a plot with an Australian war veteran to murder the nation's Prime Minister.
Police today said they were hunting for former Solomons police sergeant Edmund Sae in relation to an alleged conspiracy to kill Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
They believe Mr Sae – an alleged double murderer – plotted with Australian Vietnam war veteran Bill Johnson to kill Sogavare last month.
Mr Sae has been on the run since escaping from a Solomons jail, before he could be tried for the February 2003 assassination of former police commissioner Frederick Soaki. He is also accused of murdering a second police officer following his escape.
Mr Sae has remained in hiding in the jungles of Malaita island, where Mr Johnson has his home.
Police allege that in early 2003, Mr Sae donned a mask and walked up to commissioner Soaki at a restaurant in the Malaitan capital, Auki, and shot him in the head at point blank range.
Police have claimed Mr Johnson conspired with four others, including Mr Sae, to assassinate Mr Sogavare some time between January 18 and 23.
It's alleged the plot was hatched during a drinking session at a Honiara motel, but it is unlikely the fugitive Mr Sae, if he was involved, would have dared enter the Solomons capital.
Mr Johnson, 61, is the only one of the group located and charged so far, but Honiara residents who know him have scoffed at suggestions he was involved in a murder conspiracy.
They say he is a "harmless drunk" who is nicknamed the Mad Major and is known for his binge drinking sessions when he visits Honiara from his island home.
"He gets on monumental benders that last for days and his mouth just runs away with him," said Honiara businessman Alastair Martin, a New Zealander, yesterday.
"It's pathetic that someone has taken his ramblings seriously."
Australian Vietnam Vet Accused Of Plotting To Assassinate Solomon Islands PM For $50,000 Bounty