How long plane was parked at Mareeba before mystery flight

 

A PLANE alleged to have been used for a drug run between the Far North and Papua New Guinea had been parked at Mareeba Airport for about 18 months before its mystery flight.

Australian pilot David John Cutmore remains in custody in Port Moresby after allegedly handing himself in to the Australian High Commission on Tuesday and, according to local media outlets, he has been charged with illegal entry, but no drug-related charges have been laid.

It is alleged he was not carrying a passport.

It is understood Mr Cutmore is not from the Far North, but allegedly travelled to Mareeba to pilot the Cessna 402C twin-engine aircraft on Sunday.

The plane left Mareeba on Sunday morning. Picture: Deni ToKunai via Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary
The plane left Mareeba on Sunday morning. Picture: Deni ToKunai via Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary


A joint investigation between PNG authorities and the Australian Federal Police is ongoing, involving an allegation of drug trafficking - namely cocaine.

An AFP spokesman confirmed they were looking into the "circumstances" of the crash.

The Mareeba Shire Council owns and operates the small airfield and Mayor Angela Toppin said it was disappointing someone may have allegedly exploited the site.

They previously confirmed the plane was last seen by staff on Friday and missing when they returned to work on Monday.

The plane has been owned by a PNG company and operated by an Australian company in Alice Springs since January according to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, although neither were contactable.

"The Mareeba Airport is an uncontrolled airport and is open to the general public," Ms Toppin said. "This airport is an important community asset and is well used by the aviation community.

"It is very disappointing to hear when alleged criminal activity is linked to Mareeba."

The plane is believed to have taken off from Mareeba about 8.40am on Sunday, flying north before switching off its transponder a short distance into the flight.

It was then found several hours later burning in bushland in PNG's Central Province.

It is understood Mr Cutmore is speaking with the AFP in Port Moresby and a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trading spokesman said he was receiving "consular assistance".

PNG's Prime Minister James Marape has called for a major investigation.

Originally published as How long plane was parked at Mareeba before mystery flight


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