Manila, Philippines – The brother of an Australian man gunned down in an execution-style killing at his home in the Philippines believes he was murdered by an organised criminal gang as retribution over a legal dispute.
Ex-Queenslander Reginald Rene Hodgens, 70, was shot in the head about 7.45pm on October 15, according to local police, who have also suggested he may have been involved in a legal dispute with a local Filipino.
The Philippines’ Lifestyle website reported Mr Hodgens was at the gate of his rented home in Sinait when he was shot once in the head by an unknown assassin. He was rushed to the Ilocos Sur District Hospital, in Sinait, but declared dead on arrival.
The man’s brother, Ronald, 66, from Perth, said after being born in Brisbane, his brother had spent about 60 per cent of his life living outside Australia, including about 16 years in Taiwan and the last three years or so in the Philippines in his retirement.
The deceased – who usually answered to Rene, or Reggie – had also spent about a year living with his brother in Perth.
“My gut feeling is that this is a murder, an intentional thing that has happened maybe as retribution. My gut feeling is that the people who shot him were from an organised gang,” he told Fairfax Media.
“It has been a big shock, I haven’t absorbed it yet [Rene’s death]. I had to identify the body. They sent me pictures of it, they was not good.”
“Reggie liked the lifestyle in Asia. He spoke a number of languages and had a good understanding of a number of countries. Reggie knew what he was doing up there.”
Ronald Hodgens said he and his family were still searching for answers about his brother’s killers.
The dead man had no wife, partner or children. He worked as a building supervisor in Australia and had taught English while living overseas. He was also an avid surfer.
Local senior Inspector Edmund Artates told Philippines’ Lifestyle the 70-year-old had recently moved from the town of Cabugao to Sinait after “filing a case against a Filipino”.
“Perhaps, the motive, with revenge, is based on the documents we have detected, there is a case in Cabugao,” he said.
Local police have reportedly undertaken “dragnet operations” in an attempt to find the person or people who killed Mr Hodgens and to examine CCTV footage.
A local friend of Reginald Hodgens, Emil Rebogio, said he had first met the man nearly 28 years ago when he had rented a house from his family and they had been friends ever since.
“He was a surfer, he was always bringing his board with him. In our village people knew him well,” Mr Rebogio said.
“He is a good friend of mine. I have no idea why he was killed. The police are trying their best to investigate this matter. I didn’t hear anything about him having enemies. Yesterday [Thursday] I visited him in the morgue with my family.”
A number of locals who appeared to know Mr Hodgens have paid tribute to him on the Facebook page of news site TV Patrol North Luzon, which posted a picture of what appeared to be Mr Hodgens’ dead body.
Mark Jackson, who claimed to know Mr Hodgens, left a comment on the Philippines’ Lifestylewebsite saying he had visited the deceased in July and that he had known him for 15 years.
“Rene used to work as an English teacher here (Taiwan) and loved surfing. He spoke a lot about Sabang and the great surfing there. Condolences to his family. I hope justice prevails and the killers are caught,” Mr Jackson said.
Sinait is a town of about 25,000 people about 450 kilometres north of the Philippines’ capital of Manila.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed it was providing consular assistance to the family of an Australian man who had died in the Philippines.
Consular assistance can include repatriating the body of the deceased back to Australia, and liaising with local authorities.
Comment has been sought from the Philippines police.