The Papua New Guinean police are set to launch a broadside at Australia by suggesting that Monday's independent report has interfered with the local police investigation.
A PNG police official told Fairfax Media on Tuesday there was no evidence that the constabulary's officers had taken part in the violence at Manus Island detention camp, as the independent Australian review by Robert Cornall found.
The official also said that a key suspect, believed to be the Salvation Army worker singled out in the report, has fled Manus Island to an unknown destination, creating a further setback to imminent arrests.
He said the force was “frustrated” that the review by Mr Cornall was made public when the PNG was still investigating the killing of 23-year-old Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati.
The official said a statement would be issued later on Tuesday that would cover some of these issues. He requested anonymity because the statement has not been formally approved by police chiefs.
“We are quite disappointed with the way the Australian government is handling the whole thing,” he said. “We need to do our own investigation. We have a number of suspects lined up. [The release of the Cornall report] will in no way help our investigation.”
He suggested media attention around the case had prompted the suspect to flee Manus Island, though he acknowledged he did not know when the man had left the province and therefore couldn't pinpoint Monday's release of the Cornall report as the cause.
But he questioned why the Cornall report made findings about who was responsible for the violence while also distancing itself from those findings by stressing it was simply citing witness statements and other sources.
“It was inconclusive,” he said.
Mr Cornall in his report stressed that: “I have not sought to test the veracity or accuracy of individual accounts other than to weigh them against all the other information available to the review.”
For instance, the report's identification of the Salvation Army worker sources the information to a witness and does not make a firm conclusion itself.
It is understood that the PNG police also regard the Salvation Army worker as a prime suspect, along with two other locals believed to be G4S guards and one expatriate guard.
Regarding the involvement of members of the PNG police mobile squad, the official said: “Everyone wants to blame us, but there is no evidence that our guys got involved.”
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the report had been provided to the PNG Attorney-General more than two weeks ago and he had agreed with the date of release.
"Minister Morrison had requested feedback on the report," he said. "No objections were raised, no requests were made of the Government and the release of the report proceeded as discussed."
The story Australian Manus investigation has hindered police's efforts to catch killer, says PNG source first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.