SYDNEY - The recent death of Papua New Guinea’s former director of public prosecutions, Kevin Egan, in Hong Kong brought memories of two interesting cases he handled in Port Moresby in the late 1970s.
One was the jailing of former member of parliament Nahau Rooney, who was released the next day after the intervention of then prime minister Sir Michael Somare. The other was the conviction and jailing of a German national, Rene Gorlitz, 29.
In mid-1977, Gorlitz and his girlfriend, Ingrid Koch, also 29, stole a yacht in Sydney Harbour and sailed it to Milne Bay where they were arrested and transferred to Port Moresby.
Gorlitz was found guilty and ended up in Bomana. Koch was deported.
Around the same time, on the other side of the world, a leader of the notorious Baader Meinhof Gang, Andries Baader, was sentenced to life in prison. His partner, Ulrich Meinhof, had committed suicide in May 1976.
Baader Meinhof was a ruthless terrorist organisation responsible for numerous murders, hijackings, bombings and kidnappings throughout Europe. The gang subsequently morphed into the Red Army Faction which continued to operate until the end of the 1990s.
The first hint of a PNG connection to the Baader Meinhof Gang came when the government-appointed defence lawyer for Gorlitz received a message, purportedly from a Gang cadre, indicating that the organisation was not happy with the effort he had put into defending Gorlitz.
The message hinted that further action would be considered. The lawyer decided it was a good time to take extended leave.
There was another twist. On 13 July 1977 the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacked a Lufthansa jet in a failed attempt to secure the release of Baader and several other gang members. On hearing of the failure, Baader and his cohorts committed suicide.
Not long after Baader’s death became public knowledge, Gorlitz hung himself in his cell.
Whether he did so in sympathy with the other Gang members is open to question.
However, as he had links to that organisation, it was a possibility.