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Taiwan's CIB helps Australia capture academic wanted for murder plot

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Taiwan's CIB helps Australia capture academic wanted for murder plot

Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) on Monday revealed its role in the investigation and extradition from Palau last week of an Australian academic accused of conspiring to murder her former partner.

In the case in question, Lisa Lines, 43, a former history professor, allegedly hatched a plot in 2017 to have her then lover Zacharia Bruckner, 36, kill her ex-husband, Jonathon Hawtin, also 36 years old.

According to Australian media reports, in a gruesome attack that October, Hawtin was rendered paralyzed from the neck down after being struck repeatedly with a hatchet, while Bruckner was shot in the abdomen.

During a subsequent trial, Hawtin was charged but eventually acquitted of attempted murder, as police had assumed that Bruckner, who was lodging with the couple at the time, had been acting in self-defense.

At the trial, the court was also told that Lines had convinced a woman she was dating to smother Hawkins to death in the hospital where he was recovering, but the plan fell through after the woman was confronted by hospital security.

In 2020, Australian police reopened an investigation into Lines and ultimately issued an arrest warrant, which may have factored into her decision to leave with her two kids for Taiwan -- which does not have an extradition treaty with Australia -- later that year.

According to the reports, during Lines' time in Taiwan, she allegedly conspired with Bruckner over the internet to come up with a new plan to kill Hawtin and his mother by hiring a hitman, during a series of conversations between December 2021 and August of last year.

Taiwan's role

At a press conference regarding the case on Monday, Taiwan's Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) confirmed that Lines had legally entered the country on a working visa with her two children in February 2020.

During her time in Taiwan, Lines lived in New Taipei's Xindian District and worked at an investment consulting firm in Taipei's Songshan District, said Yang Sung-kuo (楊國松), head of the CIB's International Criminal Affairs Division.

After Australia reopened its probe into Lines, Yang said police in that country had contacted the CIB to ask for help investigating a dispute over the custody of her two children.

Due to the complexity of the case, however, the CIB asked that Australia first provide it with relevant evidence, Yang said.

Yang said that in September 2022, Interpol issued a red notice for Lines and a yellow missing person notice for her two children.

However, because Taiwan is not a member of Interpol, the CIB was only informed of the notices by Australian authorities in April of this year, he said.

Only in October, after receiving an official request from the Australian Federal Police and South Australia Police, did the bureau formally launch an investigation into Lines, he said.

Investigators found that Lines, whose visa was set to expire on Nov. 30, had tried to obtain an extension at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but "was rejected," Yang said, without elaborating.

On Nov. 15, Lines and her two children boarded a plane for Palau, likely to apply from there to renew her Taiwan work visa, Yang said.

Given that Palau has an extradition treaty with Australia and Taiwan does not, the CIB informed authorities in Palau, who arrested Lines at the airport, Yang said, adding that Australian police had also arrested Bruckner in Brisbane on the same day.

As Lines went through extradition proceedings, the CIB sent personnel to accompany her children on a flight back home to Australia, Yang said.

Then, on Nov. 22, the three countries arranged to have Lines extradited on flights via Taiwan to Australia, where she was taken into custody, Yang said.

In addition to the extradition process, Taipei prosecutors have also carried out searches of Lines' apartment in New Taipei and workplace in Taipei, in order to provide any relevant evidence to Australian authorities, Yang said.

According to the Associated Press, Lines was denied bail during an initial court appearance on Monday in South Australia, where she faces trial for attempting to arrange Hawtin's murder.

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