Accused two deny missionary murder

Two men from a remote pagan clan in the Solomon Islands who are about to face trial charged with the beheading killing of Australian missionary Lance Gersbach say they are innocent.

Mr Gersbach, 60, who arrived at the Seventh Day Adventist hospital in Ato'ifi on Malaita with his wife and two young daughters in February, was decapitated with a machete on May 18.

Police allege Silas Eddie Laefiwane was angry after being refused free or discounted passage on a supply boat the hospital had chartered and that his cousin, Na'asusu Tome, took revenge.

Police said yesterday that while Mr Laefiwane surrendered a week after the killing, there was an "operation" to arrest Mr Tome.

At Honiara's Rove Prison yesterday, the men were subdued as they were brought into an interview room to talk to The Age.

Both claimed that police beat them in custody.

Mr Tome repeated several times that he and his cousin were innocent and did not know who had killed Mr Gersbach.

But police said they had enough evidence to proceed with murder charges and a trial date was being sought.

Mr Tome and Mr Laefiwane sleep on a concrete floor on woven mats in a dark cell with no toilet and have few possessions.