Papua New Guinea leader's son faces murder charge

AP News
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Posted: Jun 16, 2011 12:46 AM
Papua New Guinea leader's son faces murder charge

Police were preparing to charge the son of Papua New Guinea's acting prime minister with murder Thursday after a 29-year-old waitress' body was found at the family home.

A guard at the house told police he saw the son, Theo Abal, and the woman arrive home in the early hours of Monday and head for a garden on the premises. Police said the guard later heard the woman scream and that Abal confessed to killing her.

Acting Prime Minister Sam Abal said he personally reported the "alleged murder" to Police Commissioner Tony Wagambie on Monday after the woman's body was found at the home in the capital, Port Moresby. He made no comment on his son's alleged confession.

Theo Abal was arrested at a Port Moresby hotel Tuesday night and was still in police custody Thursday.

Police spokesman Supt. Dominic Kakas said police would charge Theo Abal, 21, with willful murder Thursday. He will likely make his first court appearance Friday when he is indicted, Kakas said.

He could face the death penalty if convicted. Kakas said the island nation has had the death penalty for only a few years and has yet to carry out an execution, though a handful of defendants have been sentenced to death.

Theo Abal is the younger of Sam Abal's two children and was adopted. He is unemployed and lives at his father's house, where the woman's body was found.

Kakas said the dead woman worked as a waitress at a Port Moresby hotel. Her name has not been made public.

Sam Abal has pledged full cooperation with the police investigation.

"If any of my family members are involved, they will face the full brunt of the law and will not be treated differently from anyone else in similar situations," he said in a statement Tuesday.

Wagambie said Tuesday that the acting prime minister was away from the house and was alerted to the death by the security guard, who found the woman's body in a banana garden.

The guard alleged that he opened a gate for Theo Abal and the woman shortly before dawn Monday and that the pair walked hand in hand into the garden, Wagambie said.

"The guard claims that some 20 minutes later, he heard the woman scream, and further claims that some time after, Theo comes out and tells him that he had killed the woman and left her body in the banana garden," Wagambie wrote in his statement.

Police have not said how the woman died.

Abal is standing in for Prime Minister Michael Somare, who stepped down in December because of ill health and to clear his name before a tribunal that is investigating allegations that he failed to disclose his full income.

Somare, 75, is accused of failing to submit full income returns going back nearly 20 years.