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‘Death ship’ inquest reopens as gun-toting ex-master returns to Australia

The inquest into mysterious deaths onboard the Sage Sagittarius bulk carrier reopened in Sydney today, just as the chief suspect reentered Australian waters on a different vessel. Three men died in quick succession in 2012 onboard the Japanese controlled vessel, dubbed the ‘death ship’ in Australian media, with the finger of suspicion raised at its gun-toting, hard drinking, bullying master, Venancio Salas.

The coroner’s court heard today from one Australian Federal Police office who said that the disappearance of chief cook Cesar Llanto from the vessel was treated as an “alleged murder” not an accident or a suicide. Llanto, who disappeared, likely overboard, was the first death, followed two weeks later by chief engineer Hector Collado, who was stuck on the skull and fell to his death.

Blood evidence examined by forensics experts suggested foul play was possibly involved in Collado’s death.

The third man to die in what has become Australia’s most notorious maritime inquiry was Japanese safety superintendent Kosaku Monji, crushed to death in the ships’s conveyor belt machinery

Ironically, Salas, the then captain of the Sage Sagittarius, arrived in the Port of Gladstone today aboard a new ship, Kypros Sea.

The inquest is due to run until Friday.


Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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