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Ex-minister accused of killing wife

Simon Macartney speaks to his lawyer  from the lockhouse in the Suva Magistrates Court today.

Simon Macartney speaks to his lawyer from the lockhouse in the Suva Magistrates

Court today.
Photo: AAP


November 12, 2007 - 5:50PM

A former Jehovah's Witness minister from Melbourne was formally charged with the murder of his wife when he faced a Fiji court today.

The hearing for Simon Macartney, 34, had been expected to be heard later this week but went ahead this afternoon.

Macartney appeared briefly in the Suva Magistrates Court, where a judge remanded him in custody before formally adjourning the hearing until Thursday.

Macartney, a dual Australian-British citizen from Rockbank in Melbourne's west, has been charged with murdering his wife Ashika Macartney, 29, soon after she arrived in Fiji from Melbourne.

Ashika, originally from Fiji, had recently gained Australian permanent residency. Her partly decomposed body was found

under bushes at Deuba, on Fiji's main island of Viti Levu, earlier this month. It's believed she was strangled.

Macartney has maintained his innocence, claiming he last saw his wife after he picked her up from Nadi Airport on October 22 and dropped her in the town of Sigatoka, where she was met by a taxi driver.

He has said that just before he dropped her off, his wife told him she had another husband.

Police originally charged Macartney with murder on November 2, but he was freed four days later when a magistrate said there was not enough evidence to hold him.

He was arrested for a second time last week and on Saturday police again charged him with murder.

One of Macartney's lawyers, Simione Valenitabua, today told AAP that Macartney was glad he had been moved to a holding cell at a Suva police station after inmates at a jail had taunted him.

The Australian had been scared about the prospect of being sent back Korovou Prison, where he was held at one point last week, the lawyer said.

"They (other prisoners) were taunting him throughout the night," he said.

Macartney looked tired as he faced court today, wearing a white shirt with a striped tie.

Outside the court, his father Alan Macartney, who lives in Fiji, protested his son's innocence.

"When I first saw him he said to me 'I haven't done anything wrong' and I believe him. He is a gentle giant," he said.

Alan Macartney said he was angry that key evidence appeared to have been destroyed, including the body of Ashika.

He said the woman's body was cremated just days after it was found and before the defence had a change to undertake forensic tests.

He said his son had been a Jehovah's Witness minister for many years and did not believe in violence.

Simon Macartney is expected to again apply for bail when he reappears in court on Thursday.


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