Murdered New Zealand man “involved in legal dispute”

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Murdered New Zealand man "involved in legal dispute"
Screengrab from the CCTV footage that helped identify the alleged killers. Picture via the Biliran Island Facebook page

The New Zealander gunned down in Naval, Biliran, this week was involved in a legal dispute in the months leading up to his murder.

Simon Rawlinson had been urged by concerned friends to leave the Philippines as he tussled with local authorities over access rights to his waterfront home on Maripipi Island.

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Commenting on our previous report on the killing, a PLN reader called Celia said: “My partner and I were friends of Simon and are devastated by this murder. Simon has been challenged a lot recently and I believe this may be a result of the legal aspects he has been fighting against.”

Other sources told the Waikato Times that a group of locals were planning to declare the retired ship builder and fisherman a “persona non grata” and have him kicked out of the country.

The 63-year-old was gunned down by motorcyclists riding in tandem early on Wednesday morning after visiting a market.

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The alleged lookout Manuelito Estreller and the suspected gunman Antonio Robaro, a local farmer, have both been arrested, while the search continues for the motorcycle driver.

Murdered New Zealand man "involved in legal dispute"
Suspected gunman Antonio Robaro in Naval jail. Picture via the Biliran Island Facebook page

Speaking to the Waikako times, one friend of Mr Rawlinson, who asked not to be named, said: “I told him numerous times that he was a stranger in a strange land and to get out of the Philippines, but he would not listen.”

In April, Mr Rawlinson sent an email to friends saying he was embroiled in a long-running dispute with the Barangay Captain and council over a pathway to his home.

Mr Rawlinson had been due to return to New Zealand next week, but had delayed his return because of cold weather, which he told friends aggravated his arthritis.

It was this ailment that spurred him to leave his hometown of Hamilton in New Zealand for warmer climes about six or seven years ago.

Other murders

As we have previously reported, the killing is the third shooting of a foreigner by gunmen riding in tandem on the Eastern Visayan island in recent times.

In June last year we reported how 74-year-old Henk Nuits, a Dutch businessman, was shot dead by a pillion rider. His 11-year-old son, Jake Henry, was shot in the chest but survived.

Then, in March this year, former US Marine Harvey Abrams was also shot by motorcycle-riding assassins.

In both these previous killings the victims were driving their own vehicles when targeted, while Mr Rawlinson was on foot.

Biliran is one of the smallest provinces of the Philippines, with a population of about 170,000.

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