BY TAHLIA PRITCHARD
The Peru Six is probably a phrase you’ve heard been thrown around the past few days. In case you missed what was going on, BULLSH!T has provided a summary of the situation for you. And it’s enough to scare any young traveller.
Early last year, a group of six young Australians were travelling around South America. After hiking in the Peruvian Andes, the group decided to check themselves into a hotel. Not really a decision you’d ever think would impact your whole life right? Wrong.
The ‘Peru Six’, as they are now titled, checked into the hotel and later that afternoon went to buy groceries, asking the hotel’s doorman for directions. They arrived back at the hotel where they resided in their room. At some stage in this time period, Lino Rodriguez Vilchez, 45, the hotel doorman, plunged to his death.
Early reports wrote Vlichez’s death off as a suicide, and while the group were questioned by police, no concerns or suspicions were raised at the time. The group left Peru the following day after contacting the Australian Embassy and continued to travel around South America, thinking that was the last of it. Fast forward 18 months later, and the group are being accused of murdering Vilchez, and face the threat of being extradited back to Peru to stand trial.
The brother of Vilchez is under the belief that the six young Australians pushed the hotel doorman to his death from their 15th floor room, after the doorman visited the room to complain about noise levels. The group were later named as suspects in the murder of Vilchez after a police investigation and ‘evidence’ found that Vilchez could have been pushed.
The following statement has been taken from the groups Facebook page:
18 months ago, we were just six friends travelling South America but became victims of being in the wrong place at the wrong time in Lima, Peru.
Sadly the doorman at our rented apartment fell to his death during our stay there. In June 2012, three months after we all had returned home from our trip we found out through YouTube that the family of the late doorman were accusing the six of us of murdering him and were campaigning to have us brought back to Lima to receive punishment for the alleged crime. The family had no evidence to support their accusation, however over the past year we have been fighting a legal battle in the Peruvian courts to prove our innocence.
During this time we have kept the lawsuit close to our chest, during what has been an emotionally challenging period. We have been sure to respect the Peruvian judicial system to date however now is the time to call out the injustice we are facing and ask for the public’s support in our fight for freedom.
It has been a very distressing year not only for the six of us, but our families as well. The daily battle we fight is mentally, physically and financially straining on all of us, not to mention the very real possibility of returning to Peru to face the courts in July.
Hugh and Tom Hanlon, Sam Smith, Harrison Geier, Andrew Pilat and Jessica Vo (The Peru Six) have now had a Peruvian court refuse to have them provide statements from Australia.
There is great fear that if the group returns to Peru to give evidence, they will not be given a fair trial.
The group has set up a Facebook page for support, accumulating over 31 000 likes at the time of this article. You can find it by clicking here. The latest report on the page from the group, tell of Vilchez’s brother using the Facebook page to publicly call the individuals assassins and murderers.
Below is a short timeline detailing the events of the last 18 months.
Hugh and Tom Hanlon, Jessica Vo, Sam Smith, Harrison Geier and Andrew Pilat check into a hotel at Lima, Peru. Hotel doorman Lino Rodriguez Vilchez falls to his death.
The group are questioned over the death, but free to leave.
Police treat death as suicide.
Lino Rodriguez Vilchez’s brother persuades authorities to reopen the case, believing his brother had not committed suicide.
Local Peru media label the group of six Australian’s as ‘killers.’
The group find out about this after one member sees it on Youtube.
Group hires Peruvian lawyers to defend themselves.
Judge names group as prime suspects in the case and orders them to return to Peru.
Group applies to give evidence from Australia, while the whole time, claiming their innocence.
Peruvian Judge denies the request. As of the last reporting, the group has appealed the decision and is now awaiting the outcome.