Six Australians who became suspects in the 2012 death of a hotel worker in Peru say they feel “overwhelming relief” after being cleared in relation to the incident.
The former students – dubbed the Peru Six – on Saturday said the Lima Third Court and senior prosecutor had confirmed they had nothing to do with the death of doorman Lino Rodriguez, which had initially been treated as a suicide.
“Today we feel overwhelming relief as we close this chapter of our lives and finally move on,” Hugh Hanlon, Tom Hanlon and Jessica Vo of Melbourne, and Sydney trio Sam Smith, Harrison Geier and Andrew Pilat said in a statement on Facebook.
“The past four and half years have caused immense uncertainty, frustration as well as emotional and financial strain.
“The immeasurable stress has left a dreadful toll on all of us.”
The six on Saturday said they were advised by consular officials two months ago that a prosecution wouldn’t proceed. The court notified all parties, including the doorman’s family, who were given an opportunity to appeal.
In mid-September the Australians were notified by their lawyers and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that no appeal had been submitted by the family.
“Having received this advice in writing overnight we are now able to share this important development publicly,” they said on their Facebook page Completely Wrongly Accused.
The death of Lino Rodriguez Vilchez in January 2012 was initially ruled suicide, but after the six Australians returned home they became suspects in a homicide case.
Hugh Hanlon told the Nine Network in 2013 that the group continued to travel through Peru for another two months after the incident and it wasn’t until they were back in Australia for three months ”that we realised something was going on”.
The family of 45-year-old Vilchez was convinced the Australians attacked and threw him from the 15th floor balcony after an argument about noise. Local television stations labelled the Australians killers.
The Australians maintain that the doorman had never been in their apartment.
Peru’s judicial system ordered the group face court in Lima in August 2013, but the group chose not to leave Australia for fear of an unfair trial.
After a complicated appeal process the six were allowed to give evidence from Australia.
In the years since the incident all six of the Australians have now completed their studies and are working in their chosen fields.
“We are looking forward to travelling freely and, most importantly, to continue what will always be a lifelong friendship with each other,” they said.