Sydney: The inquest into the mysterious series of deaths onboard the Hachiuma Steamship controlled Sage Sagittarius coal carrier heard today of the tense atmosphere onboard the vessel, with increasingly fingers being pointed at the ship’s master as the perpetrator.
The captain of the so-called ‘death ship’, Venancio Salas, was involved in an argument with the chief cook seven days before he disappeared overboard.
A fellow crewmember, speaking via video link, said he had seen Salas having a “quarrel” with Cesar Llanto days before the cook went missing off the Cairns coastline.
The argument stemmed from Salas’s demands to reduce the amount of food being given to the ship’s crew.
“I saw a bit of anger from Captain Salas but not from Mr Llanto, he stayed humble,” the crewmember who cannot be identified said. The crewmember felt that Salas was trying to pocket the money saved from cutting the crew’s food allowance. Salas has already been linked to gun smuggling onboard the ship, hitting crewmembers and drinking while at work.
Another crewmember giving evidence today spoke of the crew’s fear that “we will be next” after Llanto’s disappearance. This crewmember also recounted a separate argument between Salas and Llanto. The witness said he did not think the chief cook accidentally fell overboard or committed suicide.
When asked if he believed the captain was involved in the cook’s disappearance, the witness replied: “In my opinion, I think he may be involved.”
Llanto was one of three deaths that took place onboard the ship in a six-week period in 2012.
Salas, when interviewed from the Philippines via video link last month, indicated he felt Llanto had been killed by Raul Vercede, an oiler working on the ship, who Salas said had been having arguments with Llanto.