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Accusations of murder may have been sparked by debt

Six students await news of their fate, reports Jack Nairn.

Six students await news of their fate, reports Jack Nairn.

A University of Sydney student is among a group of six young Australians under investigation for murder in Peru.

Andrew Pilat, a 21-year old engineering student, was holidaying in South America early this year with five friends, all of who have since returned home to Australia.

But the group awaits a possible extradition order if Peruvian police decide to press charges over the death of Lino Rodriquez Vilchez.

Mr Vilchez was working as a porter at an apartment complex in the Miraflores region of Lima, popular with international tourists, on the night of January 19 when he suffered a fatal fall. The 46-year old employee was discovered on the ground after allegedly being to seen to fall from a balcony.

Mr Pilat and his friends had checked into the hotel that day. Peruvian authorities treated the incident as a suicide and questioned the six Australians about the incident. They explained that Mr. Vilchez had assisted them with on their arrival at the building and that after this encounter they had no further contact. They were then permitted to leave the country to continue with their holiday.

After their return to Australia, the group discovered allegations of murder made by a number of family and friends of Mr. Vilchez via Facebook. The Facebook page “Justicia para Lino rodriguez vilchez” [Justice for Lino Rodriguez Vilchez] states: “We want justice for Lino Rodriguez vilchez, killed by 6 Australian tourists in Miraflores, Lima, Peru.” The page currently has 5 ‘likes’.

Since the discovery of these allegations the young men and woman have promised cooperation with Peruvian authorities and are working with DFAT in order to clear their names. While there have been talks of possible extradition, no charges have currently been laid. Bob Carr earlier told the Sun Herald that full consular support is being provided.

A Peruvian newspaper, Peru.21, claims the Australians were drunk and “causing a scandal” when Mr Vilchez approached them asking them to quiet down. The students deny they were intoxicated.

There are also suggestions that Mr Vilchez owed a significant debt and that his family rejected the explanation of suicide in order to claim insurance payouts to cover these debts. At this time the Peruvian authorities are showing little support for such alternative theories.

Mr Pilat was not prepared to comment for this story. In June, the group went public and approached the Sun Herald to tell their side of events. It was published as a cover story on June 30. Honi Soit understands that since then, the legal situation of the six students may have changed, and that they are no longer able to talk to media.