Manager found burnt to death in vehicle

Mysterious: A fireman standing next to the pickup truck where the remains of the plantation manager were found near Semporna.

KOTA KINABALU: Police are puzzled over the disappearance of dozens of workers at an oil palm plantation where a 53-year-old estate manager was found burned to death inside his vehicle.

In what was initially thought to have been an accident, police who turned up at the scene found that all the workers there had left their workplace and quarters.

"They seemed to have run off. We are now searching for them to ascertain what happened," Semporna acting police chief Asst Supt Mohd Fadil Ali said yesterday.

He said no arrests had been made yet in connection with the death of the man from Tawau.

The charred remains of the man were found inside his Toyota four-wheel drive vehicle. The vehicle was first thought to have collided with an excavator at the oil palm estate along Semporna-Kunak road on Thursday.

A team of firemen from Semporna had put out the fire at 2.30am after being alerted by the public.

Police have not ruled out the possibility of the man being killed and then put back into his vehicle before it was set on fire.

ASP Fadil said that they were investigating the case for murder after obtaining some information from family members and witnesses.

He said that the man's 23-year-old son had lodged a missing person report at about 5pm on Wednesday after his father failed to return home in Tawau about 100km from Semporna.

He said preliminary police investigations showed that the rear of the truck had hit the tyres of the excavator.

In an unrelated incident, Sabah police commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said that police were investigating claims of an unidentified man with an automatic weapon walking around a village in Ranau about 90km from here.

Unconfirmed reports claimed that the man was behaving suspiciously but did not harm or threaten any of the villagers as he walked around the area.