Shine A Light

Shine a Light: The Cases Of Missing Murti And Talei

It was like any other Friday for the Murti family of Qila in Taveuni. But only this time, their usual happy morning quickly turned into a nightmare, with the disappearance of young Chirag Murti.
24 Sep 2022 14:01
Shine a Light: The Cases Of Missing Murti And Talei
From Left: Talei Raikadroka. (R) Chiraag Murti (right), with his father, Shyam Murti.

It was like any other Friday for the Murti family of Qila in Taveuni. But only this time, their usual happy morning quickly turned into a nightmare, with the disappearance of young Chirag Murti.

The incident happened on November 12, 2021, a little after midday. Chirag is the son of Shyam and Nargis Murti. Young Chirag had a twin brother, Chahal. The twins were born with autism.

They have been unable to hear and speak since birth. They were seven years old last year.

 

Their younger sister was only four at the time. She now attends kindergarten. It’s almost a year now since the disappearance of Chirag. How- ever, his father believes that his son is still alive and well.

Chirag is just one of the many cases of missing children in Fiji.

Last Saturday, we highlighted the case of Peniana Masuciri Vadei, who mysteriously disappeared in Maui Bay, on Constitution Day two weeks ago. Police are still investigating her case.

 

Another similar case, also unsolved to date, is that of Talei Kuta Raikadroka, of Kalekana in Lami.

We also highlight her mysterious disappearance three years ago in this week’s column. Police spokesperson Ana Naisoro said the cases of Talei and Chirag were still under investigation. She said there were no positive leads so far for both cases.

She added there was support from the Australian Federal Police, New Zealand Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Fiji. Also, interpol counterparts to solve these cases.

 

THE DAY OF THE INCIDENT

It was a little after midday when Mrs Murti realised that young Chirag was missing from their home.

Mr Murti was informed of the news via phone call from his father-in-law, when he was shopping with a friend in Naqara.

Recalling the events of that dreadful morning, Mr Murti said he had left his home to help his co-farmer, Asif, shop for iron roofing.

He was penniless. He was provided transport by Asif. Mr Murti and Asif had struck a deal more than a year ago that they would help with each other’s farm every week. They’ve become closely associated since.

 

Asif’s farm is a 30 minutes’ walk from Qila. On the morning of the incident, only Mrs Murti and her three children were at home.

She had just fed her three children rice and fish for lunch.

“That was Chirag’s last meal,” Mr Murti said.

Mrs Murti had then left the children unattended to collect coconut leaves from behind their house, about 50 meters up the hill. The siblings were playing outside. Chahal and his sister were in front of the house, while Chirag was alone behind their house.

“When my wife had realised Chirag was missing, she had asked our neighbours and searched possible places where our son could have gone to,” Mr Murti said.

 

“That’s when I received the call from home. My father-in-law had asked me if I had taken Chirag to town with me. I told him to report the matter with the Police.”

Worried, and without any means of getting home, Mr Chirag had to wait and find transportation.

Upon reaching home later that Friday, Mr Chirag searched all possible areas for track marks, and areas that were already searched by his wife. He concluded his search and returned home around 8pm.

“I know this place very well that’s why I searched the areas that I felt my son could have gone to, including a fishpond,” he said.

 

Mr Murti said the Police had arrived at their residence around 9pm. No search was conducted, except they had conducted interviews.

Police had only conducted their search around 10 o’clock on Saturday morning. Mr Murti’s farmhouse, which was about an hour’s ride on horseback from Qila settlement, was also searched. Mr Murti and Asif were both questioned by Police.

For Chirag to disappear without any trace is unusual, Mr Murti said.

He recalled on certain occasions when his children were left unattended in their home, while the mother would visit her friends and women nearby.

 

These incidents had occurred several times, because on all those occasions, Mr Murti was telephoned to return home from his farm.

“One time my wife had gone to some women living next door, and the twins were at home. They were lying on the floor without clothes and drenched diapers were inside the house, including poop,” he recalled.

“We had the Social Welfare department coming here to our home, and they found the children alone. This happened more than once because they would call me to return home from my farm.”

Mr Murti maintains that his son was taken away from them and was still alive.

 

QILA HOME

Mr Murti and his family share their home with Mrs Murti’s brother, his wife, and his child. The Murtis live on one half of the house, and the other half is occupied by Mrs Murti’s brother.

Mrs Murti’s brother and his wife are private people and don’t normally associate themselves with their relatives.

Their Qila home is located on a slope, about 50 meters above road level. Mr Murti said it was impossible for his son to have left their house on his own accord.

However, their children are fond of riding in vehicles.

 

“My children don’t even follow me down the driveway if I was to go somewhere. They remain at home. So, how would it be possible for them to descend from our driveway, which is about 20 meters from home,” he said.

The incident had left Mr Murti, and his wife traumatised and devastated. Mr Murti had lost his appetite that November weekend. The only thing that kept him going was water, and the hope of finding his son.

But the pain of losing his son, and the possibility of the case becoming unsolved, was unbearable. He felt restless and helpless.

Using the media was his other option. On Monday morning, he had approached his family friends and neighbours for assistance in reach- ing out to the media.

 

ABOUT QILA AND THEIR FAMILY

Qila is mostly hilly and surrounded by grass. There are no creeks or rivers nearby, except a fishpond located down the slope.

Qila is home to mostly Indo-Fijians, who are both domestic and commercial dalo and yaqona farmers.These residents also raise sheep, goats, and cattle. The mode of transportation for some to get to their farms is on horseback.

There are more than 200 families living in Qila, including the iTaukei community close to the settlement.

 

Mr Murti’s family is often cast aside by neighbours because of their impoverished living conditions.

Their home was not one that was frequented by people. But it’s always a different story when people want something from them.

Mr Murti, 44, is a yaqona farmer and his wife is a stay-at-home mother.

They also carry out backyard gardening for their daily sustenance.

 

KALEKANA MISSING GIRL

Talei Kuta Raikadroka, affectionately known as Pei, was only three years old when she disappeared from inside the home of his paternal grandparents in Kalekana, Lami.

It was on a Friday night, November 29, 2019. Talei would have been in Year 1 this year. Her younger brother, Balau Vesikula, is now her age when she disappeared. Talei’s maternal grandmother, Arieta Ronaqato, still believes her granddaughter is alive.

“I cannot blame anyone else for her disappearance, because she had disappeared from inside her paternal grandparents’ home,” Ms Ronaqato said.

 

She has still not received any update from Police on the status of the case. The last time she had any form of contact with the Criminal Investigations Department was two years ago.

Since the incident, Talei and Balau’s parents, Losalini Lalaia and Waisea Raikadroka, have separated.

Mr Raikadroka has now remarried and has two children. He lives with his family in Namena, Tailevu. Ms Lalaia is a casual hairdresser. She’s now providing for her son with whatever income she earns.

Ms Lalaia and her son still reside with her mother in Kalekana, Lami.

 

Young Talei’s story

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