Man held after Norfolk Island's second murder in 150 years

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The Independent Online

The people of Norfolk Island in the South Pacific were in shock yesterday after the fatal shooting of a government minister, just weeks after an inquest failed to solve the murder of an Australian woman in 2002.

The people of Norfolk Island in the South Pacific were in shock yesterday after the fatal shooting of a government minister, just weeks after an inquest failed to solve the murder of an Australian woman in 2002.

Ivens Buffett, Norfolk's Land and Environment minister, was found dead in his parliamentary office at lunchtime. A 25-year-old man, believed to be related to him, was arrested at the scene and charged with murder. He appears in court today.

Norfolk islanders are still deeply uneasy about the killing of 29-year-old Janelle Patton, beaten, stabbed and dumped at a beauty spot in a bin-liner. This was the first murder on the island, an Australian territory, for more than 150 years. An inquest last month named several islanders as "persons of interest", but found not enough evidence to charge any.

The Australian Justice Minister, Chris Ellison, said the two murders were not connected. Australian federal police and forensic experts were travelling to the island to help.

Mr Buffett, known to many as "Toon", was also the island's Deputy Chief Minister. His family have been on Norfolk, which was settled by fugitive sailors from the mutiny on the Bounty, since the mid-19th century.

The rocky outcrop 1,000 miles north-east of Sydney, is a tight-knit community of 1,600, with a bloody history as one of Australia's most violent penal colonies. Now it is a popular holiday destination for elderly Australians from the mainland.

Ms Patton's murder destroyed the island's tranquillity, particularly because police are still convinced that an islander was responsible.

Alice Buffett, a distant relative of the latest victim, said residents were distraught. "The whole community is in shock and grief," she said.

One man said: "It's shaken everyone up, after the island hadn't had any murders for ages and has now notched up two." Islanders were worried that the killing could further dent Norfolk's appeal as a holiday destination, he added.

Mr Buffett was a member of the nine-person legislative assembly that administers the island. Norfolk Island was discovered by Captain James Cook in 1774 and later became one of Australia's most inhumane penal settlements. The colony was closed in 1855.

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