A newlywed Memphis pharmacist was found beaten to death in the bathroom of a bungalow at a luxury Fijian hideaway while on honeymoon – and her husband, who is now charged with her murder, was found 36 hours later after using a kayak to flee to a small island 1.2 miles away in the dead of night, DailyMail.com can exclusively reveal.
Christe Jion Chen, 39, was found dead on July 9 at the secluded $3,500-a-night Turtle Island Resort in the Yasawa group of islands – the jewel in the South Pacific nation’s billion-dollar travel industry.
She had suffered multiple traumatic injuries to her body, and blunt force trauma to the head, according to a post-mortem exam report viewed by DailyMail.com.
Chen and her husband, Bradley Robert Dawson, 38 – who she married in February – had only checked into the resort two days earlier. He has since been arrested for her murder and is being held in prison in nearby Lautoka. His lawyer, Iqbal Khan, told DailyMail.com that his client denies the charges.
DailyMail.com has learned that the alarm was raised on July 9 when neither Chen or Dawson turned up to eat breakfast – their personal butler then went to the couples’ bungalow and found a ‘do not disturb sign’ on their door. They then failed to turn up to lunch, and at that point their butler – who personally cleans their bungalow – used a spare key to unlock the door.
The butler – known as a ‘House Papa’ – discovered Chen lying bloodied on the bathroom floor around midday.
Christe Jion Chen, 39, was found dead on July 9 at the secluded $3,400-a-night Turtle Island Resort in the Yasaw group of islands – the jewel in the South Pacific nation’s billion-dollar travel industry – while on her honeymoon with husband Bradley Dawson, 38. Pictured: Chen and Dawson pictured on an earlier vacation
Chen and Dawson married in February but delayed their honeymoon to the tropical paradise until July. She was found dead at the luxury Turtle Island Resort on July 9 – two days into her honeymoon. Dawson has since been arrested for her murder
Sources have told DailyMail.com that the 50-year-old had started cleaning other rooms in the bungalow before he saw blood stains on the bathroom wall. When he went to investigate, he found Chen beaten to death.
He then alerted hotel management who called the Fiji Police Force in the nearby city of Lautoka, just under an hour from Nadi International Airport.
At the same time officers recovered Chen’s body, they also sent a team to search for Dawson who was nowhere to be found, a source told DailyMail.com.
He was found on Matacawalevu Island, about 1.2 miles across the water from Turtle Island, by a local man around 3pm the next day, on Sunday, July 10, while he was sitting on the deck of his home and spotted Dawson walking toward him from the beach.
Manoa Ratulele, 49, told DailyMail.com that Dawson told him that he used a kayak to paddle to the island between 2am and 3am in the early hours of Saturday morning after having a fight with Chen.
‘But he landed on a secluded beach and I don’t know what he was doing after that,’ Ratulele said.
He told DailyMail.com that Dawson was bruised and bleeding from his palms and feet, injuries that may have been caused from falling onto nearby coral. Dawson also ‘appeared disturbed’ so Ratulele offered him water and help. ‘
‘At first he kept refusing food and water and insisted he was ok, but I insisted he had some water and after that he said – Please, I need to call the police,’ Ratulele said.
The couple’s personal butler – known as a ‘House Papa’ – discovered 37-year-old Chen lying bloodied on the bathroom floor of their luxury bungalow around midday in July 9
Bradley Dawson, 38, is seen here being held in a cell in Lautoka on the Fijian mainland awaiting a bail hearing next week
Dawson used a kayak to paddle 1.2 miles from Turtle Island Resort to Matacawalevu Island in the dead of the night on Saturday, July 9. He was found by a local 36 hours later
Ratulele said he was alarmed because the entire Yasawa group of islands are littered with resorts and tourists are often seen on the beaches which cradle the azure blue waters the area is known for – but guests of Turtle Island Resort are rarely seen wandering off the island.
‘I was a bit alarmed because these are very wealthy people, we don’t find them on our beaches. We get backpacking snorkelers and surfers but not people from Turtle Island, they are a rarity around here. These are millionaires and they are never far away from minders from the resort,’ he told DailyMail.com.
Ratulele said Dawson kept insisting on calling police and told villagers who had started to gather that he was very drunk.
‘We treated him like family, there was nothing alarming about him but when he kept asking for the police, we were a little afraid,’ Ratulele said.
‘He didn’t tell us he had killed his wife but I could still smell alcohol on him. He continued to repeat that we had a fight and offered no start or end to that story, just kept saying ‘we had a fight’.’
A team of three police officers soon arrived on Matacawalevu Island to take Dawson back to Turtle Island Resort and then to Lautoka on Fiji’s main island Viti Levu, where he was charged with murder.
Representatives for Turtle Island Resort Turtle confirmed the incident in a statement to DailyMail.com, saying: ‘We can confirm that an incident took place between a couple at the Island on July 9th, which has resulted in a tragic outcome and charges being laid.
‘We cooperated fully with the police who conducted a thorough investigation and have now left the Island.
‘Out of respect for those impacted and given it is an open legal matter, we cannot provide any further comment at this time. We are deeply saddened by the event and send our sincerest condolences to Ms. Chen’s family and friends.’
The tropical island the resort is located on hosts at least one honeymoon pair per week, and only 14 couples can stay at the island at a time. When guests arrive at Fiji they board a small seaplane for a short flight to the private Turtle Beach.
The 200-hectare island, dotted with 14 villas separated by lush vegetation and oceanfront views, is a peaceful and private oasis and its 12 private beaches are among the top attractions.
Turtle Bay sits on the private island and costs a staggering $2,400 to $3,500 -a-night, a booking agent with the resort told DailyMail.com.
Turtle Island Resort is on a small island of the same name off the coast of Fiji’s mainland. The resort is known for being one of the most luxuriest in the island paradise
Turtle Bay Resort is where the 1980 film The Blue Lagoon, starring a young Brooke Shields, was filmed
Turtle Island Resort in the Yasaw group of islands – the jewel in the South Pacific nation’s billion-dollar travel industry
The $3,400-a-night island has 14 private bungalows and guests are ferried from the mainland by small plane. Each bungalow has their own private butler
After Dawson’s arrest, prosecutors said he refused to submit his DNA for forensic testing.
Magistrate Sekonaia Vodokisolomone told the court Dawson had committed an ‘indictable offence’ and the case would be transferred to the High Court in Lautoka, Fiji Sun reported.
The magistrate said Dawson’s bail application would have to be made in the High Court.
Chen and Dawson shared a new $250,000 home on Elzey Avenue in the Cooper-Young area of Memphis, where they both lived.
Chen worked as a pharmacist at Kroger while Dawson worked as an IT professional for Youth Villages, a non-profit which helps children.
The nonprofit said Dawson has been suspended pending further information.
‘It is our understanding Ms. Chen was his wife, and our condolences go out to her family,’ Youth Villages said in a statement to FOX13.
A friend of Chen’s, Rena Schomburg, told DailyMail.com that Chen was an only child and used to travel with her mom on extravagant trips and post them pictures of them to social media.
She described her friend as ‘super-sweet, kind, would do anything for anybody, outgoing, generous, and so fun’.
Schomburg said she never met Dawson, but suggested that Chen might have met him through marathon running.
‘She didn’t have a bad bone in her body,’ Schomburg said.
Another friend, Matt Koenig, told DailyMail.com he was shocked about her murder.
‘Christe was caring, funny, generous, the kind of person who can make friends with anyone,’ he said. ‘It’s a hard day.’
Before traveling to Fiji, Chen eerily told a neighbor how excited she was to be spending her honeymoon in paradise.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk