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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (April 7, 2002 - SIBC/PINA Nius Online)---Solomon Islands Police are still treating the death of New Zealand's Deputy High Commissioner as murder.

A reliable police source said that New Zealand police and forensic experts have combed the area where Bridget Nichols, 50, was believed stabbed to death outside her home.

The source told SIBC News that the crime scene was not depicted as a normal murder scene.

The source also confirmed that a number of people, including security officers employed by the high commission, have been questioned and been given DNA tests, which were sent to New Zealand for analysis.

The police source also confirmed that the expatriate neighbors of Ms. Nichols have gone back to New Zealand. But the source did not state the reason.

The source said local police are relying on their New Zealand counterparts, forensic experts and pathologists. This is because under diplomatic rules the Panatina Ridge residence is treated as New Zealand territory.

The police source hoped the enquiry team will soon conclude its findings, including the postmortem done by a pathologist in New Zealand.

The source said should the investigation fail to reveal anything conclusive, the case will go before a New Zealand coroner, who will make a ruling on the cause of death.

The death of Ms. Nichols last month was at first seen as yet another example of the poor law and order situation in the Solomon Islands.

It followed the stabbing death of another New Zealander, who was working on an aid-funded building project. And it came amidst continuing law and order problems and violence, despite a peace agreement ending two years of Guadalcanal-Malaita ethnic conflict.

For additional reports from the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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