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Dick Eade allegedly died from a land dispute matter

By Len Garae PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Jan. 2, 2012) – In Vanuatu, destiny seems to always dictate the fate of all good men and women and just when they have achieved or are about to achieve something big then something fatal happens. This is exactly what happened to New Zealander Champion of the Recognised Seasonal Employment (RSE) Scheme for workers from Vanuatu, Dick Eade.

The country’s first ever recruiter of workers for the RSE Scheme under his company called Man Power, was shot dead by a suspect who was one of his clients in a suspected land dispute outside the man’s house at Etas two days ago. His death marks him as the first expatriate to be shot and killed with a gun over a land dispute since independence 31 years ago.

Police Deputy Commissioner Arthur Caulton said the ni Vanuatu suspect who is from Aneityum appeared in court on a charge of intentional homicide yesterday morning. He was remanded in custody to reappear in court on January 9 next year.

The suspect, Philip Tanake, is a grandfather who is believed to be a trained nurse who started his career during the colonial period.

The deceased who was originally from New Zealand lived in Vanuatu for 35 years and owned Teouma Gardens, a vegetable farm which supplied fresh greens to most major hotels in Port Vila.

It was the deceased who opened the door four years ago for ni Vanuatu to pick fruits on farms in New Zealand. The fact that currently over 2,000 ni Vanuatu workers are employed in New Zealand and send home 1.5 billion vatu [US$15.9 million] every year is testimony to his contribution to the economic development of the country.

In his latest development project, the deceased shifted to real estate and the suspect was reported to have paid the deceased a 300, 000 vatu [US$3,200] deposit six years ago for the plot of land he and his family live on at Etas.

"But he stopped paying six years ago and Dick Eade kept asking him to pay up or relocate without success. We assured Dick Eade that he had legal right over the land because he had the land title but he did not apply for an eviction order," a reliable source on the Eratap Land Council said.

However, according to sources not far from the suspect’s family, it was not as if the suspect refused to pay any further deposit for the plot but that there is an alleged land dispute over the area and the land authorities advised him not to make any further deposits to the deceased.

It was Pro Medical that arrived on the scene of the crime after he was shot sometime between midday and half past one in the afternoon. Mark Thompson said he found the body of the deceased lying "face down in the dirt" and felt for his pulse but there was none. Eade was already dead. He drove the body to the Vila Central Hospital Mortuary.

It was at the mortuary that the deceased’s friends of all colours from all walks of life starting arriving to mourn his death. Some called out his name and cried openly while others whispered it and shed tears in silence.

It was then that I asked the deceased’s close friend from Tongoa called Morris if he saw the suspect who allegedly shot him. He confirmed that the suspect fired his rifle from inside his house. "I think he would have shot me because Dick and I were not far from his house. He called my name first from inside but I did not answer and then he called Dick’s name and that was when he fired and Dick went, "Awee" and turned towards me to speak but the words did not come out and he fell to the ground. I picked up his mobile phone".

In the morning before yesterday the deceased was in town to finalise his business dealings in connection to his sub division at Etas. It was then that he and Morris went to the suspect’s house. It was not clear why they approached the suspect’s house. It was then that he was shot and killed.

According to reliable sources, the deceased had "harassed" the suspect’s family two times to move out due to a seeming lack of financial commitment towards completing the payment for the land. The suspect was reported to be at work in the clinic behind Centre Point’s shopping mall during the visits. "This might have triggered his anger to react in such a tragic manner because the suspect is known as a likable, quietly spoken person", the sources said.

While the New Zealand High Commission could not comment yesterday afternoon as the Offices were closed, independent sources said the deceased’s widow in New Zealand is flying in today for his burial.

Our sources said she could not be with her husband in the country for health reasons as she needs regular medical attention.

"Dick loves Vanuatu so much that his wife is understood to have agreed that he be laid to rest in the land he came to love so much," the sources said. It is not clear at this stage when his burial is expected to take place.

One of the ni Vanuatu assistants that worked closely with Dick Eade when he successfully initiated his Man Power Company to recruit workers under the RSE Scheme is Nancy Jacob.

While paying her tribute to the deceased, she described him as an extremely hardworking farmer with a big heart who loved the country so much that he made the ni Vanuatu his family wherever he went.

"Dick was the first man, the front man of RSE to successfully send workers to work in New Zealand. I was privileged to work with him in his recruitment program and I believe Man Power alone processed approximately 300 workers to work in New Zealand in the first four years", she said.

He also networked with Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry to help workers to spend their money wisely by building their homes or investing in solar panels to light up their homes. "Dick Eade was an achiever; he did not waste time and he lived his life to the full to contribute towards the economic development of the country and the living standard of the ni Vanuatu,"she said.

May his soul rest in peace and may our Great God sustain his wife and all his friends in their grief over their tragic loss.

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