Trial faces travel issues after agent’s office closes

National

THE Rabaul Queen ferry disaster trial is in limbo as the office of the travel agent issuing tickets for state witnesses to fly into Kokopo in East New Britain has closed.
On trial are ferry owner Peter Sharp and his captain Anthony Tsiau who are both facing 172 charges of manslaughter and sending or taking an unseaworthy vessel out to sea.
The ferry sank off Finschhafen, Morobe, on Feb 2, 2012.
About 300 passengers were on board.
According to reports from the Kokopo National Court, the office of Dove Travel Agency was closed due to unpaid phone bills and was not able to issue tickets to witnesses.
Thirty nine witnesses were still waiting to be flown into Kokopo from other parts of the country.
So far, 129 witnesses have given evidence.
The last three witnesses from Bougainville gave evidence last Wednesday and were stranded in Kokopo because their return tickets were with Dove Travel.
The Bougainville witnesses are Paul Waki and John Mapeo, who flew in from Lae, and Michaelyn Aput, who flew in from Buka.
Since last week, the trial has heard evidence from one witness a day, which is slowing down the trial.
Lead prosecutor, Paul Bannister, is away overseas for medical reasons while prosecutor Sabin Dusava is running the trial alone.
Sharp’s lawyer David Cooper is in Port Moresby and Sharp is representing himself at the trial.
Justice Terrence Higgins, presiding over the case, adjourned the trial to tomorrow.

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