August 18, 2014 / 10:43 AM / 5 years ago

FBI assist Indonesian police in probe of American death

DENPASAR Indonesia (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is assisting Indonesian police in gathering evidence in the death of a Chicago-based woman whose body was found in a bloodied suitcase on the resort island of Bali, local police said on Monday.

No charges have been pressed over the murder of Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62, whose battered body was found by a taxi driver outside the St. Regis luxury hotel in Nusa Dua, Bali, last week.

Her daughter, Heather Mack, 19, and boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, 21 were arrested last Wednesday and detained as suspects.

“We are strengthening our investigation so we know what happened. The FBI has already come and is helping us,” said Djoko Hariutomo, police chief for Bali’s provincial capital Denpasar, told reporters.

On Monday, television broadcast images of Mack, dressed in a white hoodie, meeting with doctors and saying “bye” to the cameras as she walked past at the police station where she is being held.

As part of their investigation, police said they were looking at the possibility of premeditated murder, a crime that carries the death sentence. The investigation could take weeks.

The couple have hired a U.S. lawyer.

“The suspects are not cooperative at all and they remain quiet,” said Haposan Sihombing, the couple’s Indonesian lawyer.

“I hope they can tell their U.S. lawyer what happened ... and that the U.S. consulate general in Bali can explain to them how the (Indonesian) system works.”

Only an Indonesian lawyer is permitted to present a case to a domestic court and since the incident occurred in Indonesia the suspects must face trial in the country. Extradition to have the case heard in the United States is highly unlikely, Sihombing said.

Also in contrast to most Western legal systems, suspects are not formally charged with a crime until after an investigation is completed and a trial begins.

Police last week provided CCTV footage showing the couple speaking to the taxi driver after dropping off the bloodied suitcase along with other luggage outside the hotel.

Police said the two left, apparently to check-out of the hotel, and never returned.

They were later arrested at a nearby budget hotel.

An official at the hospital that conducted the autopsy said von Wiese-Mack had been repeatedly hit on the face and head with a blunt object.

Writing by Randy Fabi; Editing by Jeremy Laurence

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