Britons may be charged over island deaths

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The Independent Online

Two British men were named yesterday as possible suspects in the murder of four people, including a British architect, on a Philippines resort island.

Two British men were named yesterday as possible suspects in the murder of four people, including a British architect, on a Philippines resort island.

Keith Redfern and Patrick Higgs were placed on a "watch list" and forbidden from leaving the Philippines following an investigation into the killing of the four, who included John Cowperthwaite, an architect living in Hong Kong.

The other victims were Manfred Schoeni, a Swiss millionaire art dealer, Antonne Faustenhauser, a German property developer and long-term resident of Boracay island, and Irma Sarmiento, a Filipina maid.

All four were found stabbed to death earlier this month in Mr Faustenhauser's hilltop mansion on Boracay, an island 200 miles south of Manila that is one of the country's most popular tourist destinations. The three-storey villa had been ransacked when police arrived, with the bodies of the three men found on the second floor and the maid in her room on the ground floor.

The Immigration Commissioner, Alipio Fernandez, said Mr Redfern and Mr Higgs had been banned from leaving the Philippines for 90 days, while state prosecutors study the evidence against them. A final decision will be made by a court or the Department of Justice. A German man, Uwe Frizel, was charged with the murders last week, together with a Filipino, Chito Catalogo, and three other men.

While Mr Frizel, 37, is suspected of masterminding the killings, police are investigating allegations that the British pair hired four Filipinos who attacked the victims. The Bureau of Immigration said that Mr Redfern's Filipina wife had also sought the cancellation of his permanent visa for being an "undesirable alien", while Mr Higgs - a business partner of Mr Faustenhauser in a Boracay bar - had allegedly been working illegally on a tourist visa.

The murders shocked the expatriate community in Boracay, which has about 12,000 residents including substantial numbers of Westerners who own bars, hotels and restaurants.

They also sparked security concerns on the island, which had hitherto been regarded as a safe place, far from the separatist and Communist insurgencies further south. The President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, flew to Boracay soon afterwards in an effort to limit damage to the tourism industry, already suffering as a result of the country's lawless image.

The victims were killed in an attack that police believe was motivated by robbery. They said that all four had been repeatedly stabbed while they slept. The mansion was turned "upside down", according to the regional police chief, Superintendent George Alino.

A bloodied footprint found in the lavatory, where police recovered two long-bladed knives, allegedly matched that of Mr Frizel, who worked for Mr Faustenhauser as a maintenance man and caretaker.

Mr Faustenhauser, 69, owned a hotel and spa in Germany and had been living on the island for 15 years. He had a Filipina wife. Mr Catalogo was one of 25 workers who were building a swimming pool on his property and were brought in for questioning after the murders.

Mr Schoeni and Mr Cowperthwaite had arrived on Boracay on 1 May to discuss the possibility of marketing Mr Faustenhauser's property to Hong Kong businessmen, according to police. Mr Cowperthwaite, 59, used Mr Schoeni, a dealer who owned two Hong Kong galleries, as an art consultant on certain projects.

Mr Cowperthwaite was a Cambridge University graduate who had worked as an architect and interior designer in Britain, Hong Kong and across South-east Asia. He specialised in hotel and leisure industry developments.