At 3am last Saturday, the temperature was still a balmy 25C down on Fitzgerald Esplanade which runs by a park on the banks of Innisfail’s crocodile-infested Johnstone River.
The heat wasn’t unusual for the consistently humid north Queensland town, but what was about to unfold there less than a week ago was.
Innisfail retiree Kalman Tal, who had been living in the town for about two years, was in Fitzgerald Park allegedly in the company of Vanuatuan fruit picker, John Yalu.
The two men knew each other from around Innisfail, and according to reports, had met once before earlier that night, prior to the alleged proposal that had brought them both down to the darkened riverbank.
A timeline of events on the day police allege Mr Tal’s leg was hacked off with his own circular saw
Fruit picker John Yalu (pictured) remains in police custody after he was refused bail earlier in the week – charged with murder
A crime scene was established in the early hours of Saturday morning on Fitzgerald Esplanade (pictured) after Kalman Tal was discovered by passers-by
Around that time, somewhere a little back from the road, a blue tarpaulin was spread on the grass and Mr Tal sat upon it.
A circular saw, the kind operated by a battery which is plugged in and charged up between jobs, had been taken out of the vehicle Mr Tal had driven into town and then allegedly ferried Yalu in down to the Esplanade.
Yalu, 36, had been working as a banana picker on one of the many orchards which ring Innisfail and draw migrant seasonal workers to the region to earn money.
At $800 a week, the wage paid to overseas and Australian pickers alike, is equivalent to around 8000 in Vanuatu currency, and Yalu had regularly sent money back via an Innisfail newsagent to support his young wife and three children back home.
On the night in question, he had gone out for a drink with other Vanuatuan workers, ending up at the Nite Rumours bar on one of Innisfail’s main streets, where he had consumed several alcoholic drinks, Daily Mail Australia was told.
Innisfail retiree Kalman Tal (pictured) had been living in a southeastern Innisfail suburb for around two years
Police believe the alleged victim got out of his car and slumped into the gutter next to the Innisfail Seafood shop (pictured, the area around the cafe)
Pictured: The Innisfail fish and chip shop near where Mr Tal was found dead on Saturday
What police allege was about to unfold would change Yalu’s life in a moment, and allegedly end Mr Tal’s.
But what happened on that fateful Friday overnight last week, resulting in the horrific alleged circular saw amputation murder of a desperate 66-year-old grandfather and a murder charge against the father-of-three may have had its beginnings months earlier in Queensland’s tropical north.
John Yalu arrived in June or July last year in the sleepy township of around 10,000 people, where cyclone damage is more common than violent death.
He moved in to the Innisfail Accommodation Hub for Non-resident Workers, a series of rooms in converted old houses along Rankin street, in central Innisfail, where
Yalu was quartered in Room 1 with other Vanuatuan seasonal workers at the property which has a clear view down the hill to Fitzgerald Park and the banks of the Johnstone River.
Police allege the deceased man paid the 36-year-old (pictured) $5,000 to perform the amputation
Yalu is understood to have been residing at the Innisfail Accommodation hub for Non-Resident Workers (pictured)
The Vanuatuan pickers, who have a reputation for being cheerful and hardworking, are collected early by farm vans each week day and driven out to the orchards, then returned around 4.30pm.
The men and women are known to frequent Innisfail’s CBD pubs on Friday nights, to drink and play the poker machines, but not cause any trouble.
Already living in Innisfail, in a house purchased by himself and his son-in-law was Kalman Tal, who had lived in other states before moving to Brisbane and then on up to northern Queensland.
Mr Tal lived in a four bedroom house with his daughter, son-in-law and their children.
He was not a regular visitor to Central Innisfail, but was known around fishing haunts and some of the shops, but had more recently come to notice for a strange reason.
Mr Tal (pictured) had allegedly asked local fishermen to amputate his leg in the months before died
Mr Tal suffered from an unnamed affliction which allegedly caused him to want to remove one of his limbs.
Originally described as a result of a painful diabetic leg problem, Mr Tal’s disorder was not that, but Queensland detectives have confirmed that he had asked several people if they would remove his lower left leg.
A local fisherman told Daily Mail Australia that he had been approached by a man believed to be Mr Tal who had made the same request.
Last Friday afternoon, John Yalu went out after returning from a day’s fruit picking and at some point is believed to have met or run into Kalman Tal, police allege.
Yalu then went to the Nite Rumours bar, which has a door bizarrely located at the centre of the Innisfail Bunnings store, and is about a two minute drive from Fitzgerald Park and the riverfront.
He is then believed to have exited from the nightspot around 2.30am on Saturday and met with Mr Tal, police allege.
Police allege the pair went to an area near the riverbank and Yalu allegedly agreed to Mr Kal’s request to remove his lower left leg with a circular saw retrieved from the older man’s vehicle.
Police will allege the man had a leg condition and had asked Yalu to cut off his leg after several failed attempts to have his limb amputated (pictured, the local police headquarters)
Detective Acting Inspector Gary Hunter (pictured) is leading an investigation into the alleged amputation death of a man in Innisfail, North Queensland, on Saturday
CCTV footage of the area has been seized by police, but it is unclear what it actually shows.
Yalu is believed to have decamped from the area after helping Mr Tal to his vehicle, and possibly returned to his accommodation at the migrant hostel on Rankin Street.
Police say Mr Tal then removed himself from his vehicle and lowered himself or collapsed into a gutter next to Innisfail Seafood, where he was discovered around 3.48am by two brothers out walking.
The men dialled Triple-0 and Innisfail officers were on the scene within only a very few minutes, ahead of paramedics who were unable to revive Mr Tal.
Detective Acting Inspector Gary Hunter made it to the crime scene by 5am where he said ‘a very confronting scene’ was being dealt with by young officers, who had taped off a section of the town’s waterfront.
Insp. Hunter formed a task force, Operation Uniform Cremini, with officers from Innisfail, Cairns, Mareeba, Tully and Homicide Squad detectives from Brisbane.
He quickly arrested Yalu, who gave a formal police interview last weekend and was bail refused in custody in Innisfail’s police cells for four nights.
Insp Hunter described Mr Tal’s family as ‘shocked’ and ‘distressed’, and said the whole Innisfail community had been traumatised and affected.
‘In 34 years of policing, I’ve never seen anything like this,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
Police allege John Yalu, 36, (pictured) a fruit picker, amputated Mr Tal’s lower leg with a circular saw
On the night in question, Yalu had gone out for a drink with other Vanuatuan workers, ending up at the Nite Rumours bar on one of Innisfail’s main streets, where he had consumed several alcoholic drinks, Daily Mail Australia was told
He said reports that a sum of $5000 had been exchanged before the amputation was not a fact and was ‘still being investigated’.
Mr Tal’s family said they wanted privacy to grieve and come to terms with the horrific events of last weekend.
Yalu was transported from the Innisfail watchhouse on Wednesday, possible to a remand section of the Lotus Glen Correctional Centre, just south of Mareeba in the Atherton Tablelands.
Yalu will next appear in court on June 6.
Vanuatu’s High Commissioner to Australia, Samson Vilvil Fare, flew to Cairns and then drove to Innisfail on Tuesday to hold an emergency meeting with about 300 Vanuatuan migrant fruit pickers to urge calm among the distraught workers.
Vanuatu’s High Commissioner to Australia Samson Vilvil Fare addressed a highly charged private meeting of around 300 emotional Vanuatuans at secluded location at Innisfail’s Warrina Lakes on Tuesday night