PORT MORESBY, 15 JANUARY 2018 (THE NATIONAL) — Ninety-seven have been convicted of murder and detained in the biggest trial in Papua New Guinea in recent years.

They will appear again for a sentence hearing in the Madang National Court at a later date. [restrict]

All 97 were on Friday found guilty of killing seven people in Ramu Sugar in 2014 in what is believed to be one of the first convictions in a sorcery-related case.

Judge David Cannings said the 97 were each arraigned on seven counts of wilful murder. They each pleaded not guilty on April 22 last year and a joint trial was conducted.

The State alleged that all were members of a group of about 189 males (120 adults and 69 juveniles) who marched together along public roads for at least 10km with faces painted warlike to Sakiko village with the intention of seeking out and killing sorcerers who were living there.

“It was alleged that on their way to the village, some members of the group attacked and killed a bystander and intended to cause his death,” Cannings said.

“The group then proceeded to the village and raided it, destroying properties, including houses and food gardens.”

“They threatened and chased away many residents from that village, some members of the group attacked and killed six residents and intended to cause their deaths.”

According to the court, the first deceased attacked was Sike Wamne from Jiwaka, who was going to work on a sugar farm.

They shot him with a bow and arrow and when he fell they chopped him with bush knives and axes, he died instantly.

The second killed was Nick Uria, at Sakiko village, when he tried to run away.

A member of the group shot him straight in the eye with an arrow and when he fell the others surrounded and chopped him up.

The third was Yambung Nawoya, who was chopped on the face. His skull was split open.

The fourth was Bermo Tipupu, who tried to fight back but was overpowered and had his skull split open as well.

The fifth person killed was Baupa Aki, an old man who was chopped and thrown into a house which they set fire on. He burned with the house.

The sixth person killed was three-year-old Nathan Aki. His mother was carrying him and was trying to run away with him and her other children. The boy was pulled off from the mother and chopped to pieces.

The seventh person was a five-year-old boy named Anao Gunumi, who also tried to escape but was caught and chopped up.

“Each of the 97 persons named as an accused on the indictment presented on 22 March 2017, as amended, being the 97 persons whose names are listed in alphabetical order in Appendix B to this judgment, is found under Section 299(1) of the Criminal Code guilty on each of the seven counts of wilful murder on that indictment, as charged,” Cannings said in his ruling…. PACNEWS