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The killing of district commissioner Jack Emanuel

Jack Emanuel GC


Errol John (Jack) Emanuel was a district commissioner in East New Britain when he was murdered on 19 August 1971. He was posthumously awarded the George Cross for gallantry displayed between 1969 and 1971. At the time of Emanuel’s death, Andrew Phillips was news director at Radio Rabaul.

NEW YORK - I was posted to Rabaul following Keith Jackson’s transfer to Bougainville.

The unrest Keith has described continued, and it culminated in the stabbing murder of Jack Emanuel who’d been sent on special assignment to negotiate with the Mataungun Association.

It was mid-morning and I was in my office at the radio station when local reporter Dick Pearson, who represented the South Pacific Post newspaper, rushed into my office to announce the occupation of a plantation and invited me drive out to see what was going on.

Kabira Bay Plantation was about 80 km from Rabaul and we drove along the coastal road lined with coconut trees with the limpid, azure Bismarck Sea lapping on the black sand beaches, a picture postcard that belied the danger that lay ahead.

Dick had a shortwave radio tuned to the police frequency. We could hear the crackled instructions from the frontline of the battle at Kabira Bay. At one point I heard panicked voices saying the District commissioner had died.

The district commissioner was leading the colonial administration in the Rabaul District and in Pidgin English ‘dai’ can mean different things: sleep, stop as in ‘dispela kar i dai’ [the car has broken down], but ‘dai pinis’ is to be dead.

DC i dai’ I heard on the radio. I turned to Dick to confirm the message, not knowing if the DC was dead or just unconscious.

Ahead of us, spewing a thick cloud of dust, a truck packed with riot police in full battle gear - shields, helmets, rifles and batons at the ready - sped toward Kabira. We followed as they turned off the main road and took a jungle track deeper into the jungle plantation.

When the vehicle stopped and the police disembarked, we stopped behind them and accompanied them on the run as they proceeded deeper into rows of coconut trees.

Now we could hear commotion and the crack of rocks from sling shots propelling stones that ricocheted off the coconut trees like shrapnel. We bent low and ran covering our heads, following the police to the scene of what was now a battle.

Police were everywhere holding their shields for protections from the rocks from invisible attackers hidden in the heavy brush. But we could hear their shouts and whoops.

Now, ahead of us about 30 metres, we saw a group of police protecting a prostrate body that lay bleeding, face up on the ground. The police formed a kind of roof with their shields and I realised it was district commissioner Jack Emanuel.

Dick and I looked at each other and knew we had to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible to break the story. There was no police spokesman – the police were heavily engaged and we headed back to Rabaul. ‘Jack Emanuel, DC bilong yumi I dai pinis’.

Earlier that day a group of 10 village leaders wearing traditional face and hair decoration had confronted Emanuel and the police. One of them appeared angry and excitable and approached Emanuel. They spoke briefly and Emanuel took the man by the arm and the two moved away from the main police party. Emanuel was taken into the bush and out of sight. The police waited.

Twenty minutes later, Emanuel had not returned. A small party of police constables set off down the bush path to look for him. They found his body lying on the ground. He had been stabbed to death. The stone-throwing started. Police attempted to disperse the villagers using tear gas. This was when Dick and I arrived at the scene.

Emanuel’s body was found on the track, blood on his clothes and the undergrowth. His glasses were located nearby. Two pieces of a broken rusty Japanese wartime bayonet were found close to his body. Emanuel had been stabbed and walked several paces back down the track before collapsing to the ground.


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Peter Hilder | Inspector (RPNGC) Retired

I remember clearly the 19 August 1971, Inspector Derek Bell and I were instructed to fly to Rabaul because the District Commissioner had been murdered.

Derek took charge of the investigation, my role as a Fingerprint Expert was to seek forensic evidence.

I personally took possession of the deceased bodily organs and escorted them to the Department of Pathology in Brisbane.

I also took possession of a rusted Japanese war bayonet, which was believed to be the instrument used in the killing.

A consequent examination failed to reveal any latent fingerprints, as the oxidised surface was incapable of bearing fingerprints.

The consequent arrests and trial continued for many months. At the trial the accused were represented by several high profile lawyers and QCs from Australia.

Inspectors Harry Bryant and Mick Baker were to my knowledge, some of the major participants in the investigation.

Irene Gaskell

I had left Rabaul by this time but my father participated in the trial as a translator. He was trusted by both sides to translate correctly.

I remember being told that Jack Emanuel's killing was well planned and took advantage of the fact that he always took the protagonist aside to discuss issues and he was then set upon.

Paul Hastings

As my brother Jon mentioned, our Dad (Les Hastings) was heavily involved in the Jack Emanuel investigation.

I recall how Dad, as ADC in Kokopo, was made to carry a revolver in his brief case which was a first in my memory.

Once the investigation was completed Dad was exhausted and still traumatised from losing his boss, Jack, and was given special leave where we flew as a family to Madang for a to allow Dad to recover.

Chrioni Ragi Blaize

Stories of the murder of the late DC Jack Emanuel reverberated throughout the Territory of Papua and New Guinea during that era before PNG gained independence.

Stories were told around fires lit at night and in haus bois (men's house) by big men. The incident caused much fear to many of us who were kids during that time.

It was translated into song, told by many wantoks living in Rabaul during that era and that's how the Jack Emanuel story became so popular to many people. It changed the way many of us think of the Tolais till this very day.

Alois Jerewai

I was a Form 3 student at Rabaul High School at the time of DC Emanuel's murder.

It was a pretty sombre time for me and other students who attended RHS on scholarships, originating from other districts. I was from Wewak, in the Sepik District at the time.

Thank you for this link through which I want to review this unfortunate event.

Wills Motz

I was seven years old and living in Rabaul when Jack Emanuel was killed. The Mataungan Association was active and fighting for self determination.

We lived next to the police barracks at Malaytown so we saw a lot of Tolais rounded up and brought in and held at the barracks.

We also witnessed police riot squads with helmets and shields forming barricades against protesting Tolais near the Namanula hills.

I always remember these events since they defined my childhood growing up in Rabaul.

Ross Wilkinson

Sorry to hear, Jon. I am presuming that your father was former kiap James Leslie Hastings.

Mike Hutcheson

Having spoken to a number of people in Rabaul when I was there a few years ago, I had heard that his murder was a reprisal for his sending police to break up disturbance or something and he either gave them the order to open fire on them or they did it anyway and was held responsible by the Mataungan Association.

Can someone comment or confirm yes or no, this is what happened.

Noel Pascoe

It was huge in Rabaul and the rest of PNG. I was rushed to Rabaul by the Post-Courier to cover the murder trial early 1972.

It was supposed to take three weeks but dragged out for five months, which was then a Commonwealth law courts record.

The new courthouse in Namanula Street was packed with lawyers, 13 defence lawyers including a QC Ted Lusher and four for the Administration prosecution including the man who later became Australia's Chief Justice, Sir Gerald Brennan.

Jon Hastings

My father, Les Hastings, played an integral part in the investigation that found and convicted the killers of Mr Emanuel.

Sadly my father passed away two weeks ago.

Our condolences to you and the family, Jon - KJ

David Mitchell

Jack Emanuel's George Cross was purchased by public subscription for the PNG Museum or Library. Where is it now?

Andrew Ken Kola

I am a Papua New Guinean who has a very keen interest in my country's political history and developments during its formative years.

In my quest for information, I read about the late Jack Emanuel and his senseless brutal murder.

He was a real hero who was slain in the crossfire of the conflict that was instigated by the Mataugan Association and the Australian Administration back then.

I am wondering if there ever was a book written about him or any other form of documentary about his work as kiap.

I'd be very glad if any family member of the late Jack Emanuel would make anything available.

Don Rackemann

Casually glancing across this interesting website, I reflect upon the article in regard to Jack Emmanuel.

When a child in Rabaul I knew Mr Emanuel because of my parents friendship with the family.

He was a kind man towards children, in this case myself. He was fondly regarded as a special friend by my father.

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