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CSI Dubrovnik: the Britt Lapthorne mystery

By Sasha Uzunov - posted Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The American forensic crime show franchise, CSI: Crime Scene Investigations, CSI: Miami, and CSI: New York, has sparked enormous public interest in the use of science to solve mysterious deaths or murders. Perhaps with the media feeding frenzy associated with the tragic Britt Lapthorne case, we could see a Dubrovnik CSI hitting our TV screens.

In television the whodunit is solved within 60 minutes but in real life, answers may never be found.

We know that the 21-year-old Melbourne backpacker was last seen leaving a night club in the Croatian seaside resort town of Dubrovnik on September 18, 2008 and in October of the same year her decomposed body was found in Dubrovnik waters. Her parents maintain she was murdered.


Many theories about how Lapthorne died or was killed have been offered. The latest comes from former New Zealand law graduate turned award winning television investigative reporter, Ross “Rosco” Coulthart of the Seven network.

Rosco Coulthart was able to track down other female tourists who had alleged they were approached by men posing as Croatian police officers and who tried to abduct them. A photo sketch of the alleged assailants revealed they were serving Croat police officers. But local officials denied any police involvement.

Coulthart has an excellent track record in uncovering big stories and is one of the Australian media’s genuine nice guys.

However, a highly respected former Australian multicultural SBS TV star reporter, now living in Croatia, believes that the international media needs to tone down its hysterical coverage of the Britt Lapthorne and focus on the facts.

Mr Vladimir Lusic, Croat born Australian who hosted the hugely successful SBS TV current affairs program Vox Populi, said: “The Lapthorn case investigation is still open and, as far as I know, Croatian and Australian police experts are co-operating. What the outcome will be I refuse to predict since I am still a proud former Australian award winning investigative journalist.

“Everyone in Dubrovnik and the rest of Croatia sympathise with the young girl’s family, relatives and friends. In line with that, whatever the Lapthorn family thinks and says is completely understandable - they tragically lost their beloved daughter.


“However, all extensive ‘investigative’ media reports about the case and Dubrovnik which do not include all the facts are incomplete and misleading. Not telling the whole truth is equal to telling a lie,” he said.

Mr Lusic was awarded 1989 Golden Gavel Award for Excellence in Legal Reporting.

Mr Peter Hanrahan, SBS TV’s founding current affairs and news director, on December 13, 1990 told Australia’s prominent ethnic affairs expert, reporter John Masanauskas that Lusic was “a very competent journalist and always fair”.

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About the Author

Sasha Uzunov graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia, in 1991. He enlisted in the Australian Regular Army as a soldier in 1995 and was allocated to infantry. He served two peacekeeping tours in East Timor (1999 and 2001). In 2002 he returned to civilian life as a photo journalist and film maker and has worked in The Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. His documentary film Timor Tour of Duty made its international debut in New York in October 2009. He blogs at Team Uzunov.

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