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No foul play suspected in Harmon Chellen's death, says Seychelles police

Victoria, Seychelles | August 26, 2014, Tuesday @ 22:12 in National » GENERAL | By: John Lablache and Sharon Uranie | Views: 4010
No foul play suspected in Harmon Chellen's death, says Seychelles police

(Seychelles News Agency) - Seychelles police have dismissed suggestions of foul play regarding the death of Mauritian national, Harmon Chellen, whose lifeless body was found floating off L'Islette Island, near Port Glaud in the Western part of the main island of Mahé, on Monday August 18.

Speaking at press conference at the Central Police Station in the Seychelles capital of Victoria this afternoon, the Director of the National Crime Services Division (NCSD), Superintendent Bruce Bursik, who is in charge of the investigations said that the post-mortem carried out on August 21, revealed the cause of death as asphyxia and pulmonary oedema, all consistent with drowning.

This is the first press conference the police has organised since the incident.

According to Bursik "during the post mortem examination there was water and sand found in his stomach content so it suggests that he ingested water."

“At this stage of the investigation no foul play is suspected in the death of Mr Chellen. As with all unnatural deaths in the Seychelles the police thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding and the cause of death and in this investigation it is still ongoing,” added Bursik.

He noted that the post-mortem was performed after allowing Chellen's family representatives an opportunity to view the body and in the presence of the lawyer of the Mauritius Tourism Academy.

Superintendent Bruce Bursik at the press conference this afternoon at the Police Headquarters in the Seychelles Capital of Victoria. (Jude Morel, Seychelles News Agency) Photo license: CC-BY

Chellen who was the Director of the Mauritius Tourism Academy known as ‘Ecole Hoteliere Sir Gaetan Duval’ had spent five days in Seychelles during which he was the guest of honour at the Seychelles Tourism Academy’s graduation ceremony for a group of students who have completed their advanced diploma in hospitality management.

On the day of his scheduled departure, Seychelles Police responded to a call from the security of the Constance Ephelia Resort in the Port Glaud district, after a Malagasy female employee, had reported being sexually assaulted. It had allegedly taken place in Chellen’s hotel room at 7.00pm local time the night before.

She had named Chellen as the suspect.

Bursik said he was asked by police to accompany them to Port Glaud Police Station, where a sexual assault case was registered adding that Chellen “was cautioned and asked to wait in the enquiry office pending his transfer to be detained at the Central Police Station by detectives.”

Bursik said at one point the police lost sight of Chellen and he managed to leave the station which was then being manned by a sole officer adding that other officers were on patrol as well as investigating the alleged sexual assault case at the Ephelia Resort.

According to the police he had previously been uncooperative about the alleged incident when interviewed by officers at the Port Glaud police station.

Bursik told the media that when Chellen's absence was noticed, the police immediately began searching for him.

His body was later found floating in the sea near L’Islette island.

Harmon Chellen - Former Director of the Mauritius Tourism Academy (Facebook) Photo license: CC-BY

Pressed for more information on the alleged sexual assault, Bursik did not go into details but told journalists that “the sexual assault charges was very serious, I can say that it was at an advanced stage," adding that he would not divulge the details which is subject to the police investigation.

The assault is reported to have allegedly taken place in Chellen's room at around 7.00pm while the female Malagasy employee was there to change towels.

Commenting on the fact that Chellen had walked into the police station fully clothed, while his body was found shirtless and without shoes, Bursik said three searches carried out in the area to date have failed to find the missing items.

He also said that Chellen would have been detained and not allowed to leave the country, pending completion of investigations.

"The investigations are still ongoing and we are still questioning people," said Bursik.

"As regards to the investigation of the sexual assault case the police will continue to thoroughly investigate this case until its conclusion (...) As regards to these two investigation as we get further information as the investigations reveal more facts about these matters we will be disseminating it to the public and the media We also make an appeal to the public to contact the police if they witnessed anything on that day.” 

Reacting to speculations locally as well as reports in the Mauritian media and that several important elements which could indicate foul play had been overlooked, Bursik said ".....we do not want to be drawn into a public media dispute or debate, we rely on facts we deal with facts."

According to reports in the Mauritian media, a counter autopsy performed in Mauritius revealed that Harmon Chellen had sustained injuries to his left temple.

Bursik noted that there have to date been no official contact from the Mauritian police.  

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