Former Aussie teacher accused of child trafficking found dead inside Cebu jail
Before taking his own life, Munro wrote another inmate: ‘Help me pass quietly’
The night before, he stayed up late scribbling on a sheet of paper.
A fellow inmate across his cell said he noticed the Australian detainee writing, which wasn’t unusual.
Hilton Reece Munro, 46, was after all a former private school teacher in an international school in Hong Kong and spent some of the long, empty days writing.
He usually woke up early to fetch water, said the guards.
This was the routine of inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), where Munro has been held on charges related to child sex offenses since July 2013, when the tourist was arrested by police in the Stakili beach resort in Compostela town in the company of underage boys.
Yesterday morning, however, he wasn’t lining up with a pail.
Jail officials said a fellow inmate who walked over to his cell found him hanging lifeless at 7:15 a.m.
A thin cotton blanket was tied around Hilton Munro’s neck. The other end was tied to a metal bar of his cell, which he occupied by himself.
Marco Toral, Capitol security consultant, said the death was an apparent suicide. He said the final headcount of inmates the night before at 10 p.m. of Friday went by without incident.
Toral did not say whether Munro left a suicide note.
It was another inmate who told Cebu Daily News about seeing the Australian writing down something late at night.
But there were some clues of Hilton Munro’s despair, including an undated handwritten letter where he pleaded with his only friend in jail “to help me find (a) painless end to my life.”
His co-accused, an Ilonggo taxi driver Gilbert Andrada, told CDN the Australian had lost hope that he would ever get out of jail.
Ändrada, in an interview, said they were both frustrated by several postponements of their court hearings.
He said Munro was dismayed by the progress of his case, even though he had retained at least two lawyers in Cebu.
“Gusto jud niya makagawas. Wa na siya paglaom makagawas. May kaso kami sa two branches. Imbis nga one count nahimong five counts unya gipasan mi sa pikas four counts again, so among kaso nine counts na sa duha ka branch,” said Andrada.\
(He wanted to be released. He lost all hope of getting out. We have cases in two branches. One count became five counts. In another branch it was four counts so its a total of nine counts.)
The two were later assigned to different cells in CPDRC and lost touch, but before that Munro reportedly told the driver he wanted to set the record straight because he was bothered by his conscience.
Munro left the driver two handwritten letters, which were shown to CDN yesterday. The letters were given last year, said Andrada, but he couldn’t specify a date.
Taken together, the letters look like Munro’s attempt to strike a deal for his protection in the jail and an exit in a painless death.
In the first letter, Munro sought to clear the driver of participation in the trafficking offense.
He certified that Andrada was just hired as a driver, and “did not recruit, hire or have any intent to be involved in the use of any of the alleged complaints.”
“My intentions were not told to Gilbert and as a a driver he was not privy to my intent of purpose.”
In the second letter, Munro addressing Andrada, wrote that he had given P980,000 to a lawyer, who would give P50,000 to another lawyer to retain his services to take care of the driver’s legal defense.
“I have P250,000 left in HK. If we fail in court, I will transfer this money to your account for your family. If we fail in court, you must use this money for you and your family. And you must promise to keep me safe for 3 months while I make peace with my life and promise to help me find painless end to my life.”
“You must promise this because there is not enough money for me and your family. Just give me 3 months safe and peace in jail, help me pass quietly and in peace and use the money to look after your family.”
“This is our bond and agreement. And this is my wishes.” (sic)
CDN noted the names of three lawyers mentioned in the letters, but has yet to get their side on the allegations.
Toral, the CPDRC consultant, described Munro as generally well-behaved inmate. Munro didn’t get visitors in jail, he said, but kept in touch with his parents in Australia through overseas phone calls.
He said Munro was transferred to a cell which the Australian occupied alone after an incident in December 2014, when he flared up, got hold of a bolo in one of the work areas in the jail and pointed it threateningly at other inmates.
“Since that incident, he was transferred to the isolation room,” Toral told CDN.
The concrete cell was bare except for a foam mattress on the floor and Munro’s slippers, when CDN visited yesterday.
Two inner walls were covered with the pages of Cebuano tabloids.
Jail officials said other inmates didn’t notice Munro hanging from a corner of the cell because the view was hidden by a blue tarp sheet that covers side portions of the cell’s front bars.
Munro was arrested by police members of the Regional Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce in July 2013 in Stakili Beach resort in Compostela town.
He was accused of procuring local boys for sex. The children gave detailed accounts of their sexual encounters.
Munro faces five counts of human trafficking in relation to Republic Act (RA) 7610, a special law for the protection of children against exploitation.
Munro was in Cebu on holiday with a female companion. He had checked in at the Coco Palms resort in Danao city and had gone to Bantayan island before that.
As they were about to check out of Stakili beach resort, police arrived and arrested him and the taxi driver. Since minors are involved, the charge of qualified human trafficking makes the offense non-bailable.A court conviction would mean life imprisonment and a P2 million to P5 million fine.
Police officers went to the jail yesterday to investigate the scene of the suicide. Munro’s remains were brought to Cebu Rolling Hills Memorial Chapel. A representative of the mortuary said they await instructions from the Australian Embassy.
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