Parents of murdered girl despair of justice – `we’re over it’

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by Chris Tobin

A former Timaru couple say they have given up trying to get justice for their daughter who was killed in Uganda in 1999.

The tragedy came to light again at the end of last week when Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison would not confirm whether two men accused of murdering Michelle Strathern (26), a former Mountainview High School pupil, fellow New Zealander Rhonda Avis and seven other British and American tourists would be settled in Australia.

The two men, Leonidas Bimenyimana and Gregoire Nyaminani, and one other man stood trial in the United States for their part in the atrocity after confessing to the crimes, but were not convicted after a legal case fell apart.

“We’re over it; we’re never going to get justice.”

Politico, an American media outlet, reported Australia had agreed to take the two men as part of a swap arrangement to remove refugees from immigration detention centres on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island and Nauru.

Michelle Strathern’s parents, Peter and Jean Strathern, of Christchurch, who left Timaru after the tragedy in 2000, said they had not been advised as to the developments, and New Zealand’s Department of Foreign Affairs had not contacted them.

“We’ve no more comment to make,” Mr Strathern said.

“We’re over it; we’re never going to get justice.”

Miss Strathern had worked in Japan teaching English and in London in IT support.

On a trip back to England after seeing her parents for Christmas in New Zealand, she visited Uganda hoping to view mountain gorillas.

She and the others were abducted at a camping ground on the edge of Bwindi National Park by what were believed to be members of Rwandan Iterahamwe militias. Mountainview High School awards an annual prize in Miss Strathern’s memory, the Michelle Strathern Trophy for diligence and progress in computing.