NEWS

Fears Grow Over Fate Of Missing Russian Couple

Missing Russian couple Yuri Shipulin and wife, Natalia, had behaved strangely seven days before they mysteriously disappeared. They hit the bottle in a boozing spree drinking and smoking heavily. Sometime
19 Jun 2016 10:52
Fears Grow Over Fate  Of Missing Russian Couple
The missing Russian couple... Yuri Shipulin and wife, Natalia. Their vehicle was later found abandoned at Natadola Beach with the car keys still in the ignition. INSET: The Russian couple’s vehicle covered in dust at the Nadi Police Station. Photo: Waisea Nasokia

Missing Russian couple Yuri Shipulin and wife, Natalia, had behaved strangely seven days before they mysteriously disappeared.

They hit the bottle in a boozing spree drinking and smoking heavily.

Sometime after midday last Thursday, the Nausori Highlands vegetable farmers, got into their grey metallic Toyota Land Cruiser, registration ‘PILOT’, and drove off.

Yesterday the vehicle, covered in dust, was found abandoned at Natadola Beach in Nadi. The key was still in the ignition. There was no sign of the couple. The find has raised fears about their fate and intensified Police search.

Even their business partner, Andrew Luzanenko, had no idea where the couple were going because they left in haste. They did not tell him and Mr Liuazaneko felt it was weird.

Mr Luzanenko arrived in the country on January 16 this year, on their invitation to help them. Yesterday he was still trying to figure out why the couple had left suddenly without saying a word to him.

Her spoke little English and made hand gestures. Mr Luzanenko said their financial situation took a nose dive after their farm was ravaged by Cyclone Winston in February.

He said the couple were increasingly worried over this.

He showed a Fiji Sun team a plastic bag of empty cigarette packets saying “see, only one week.”

On a table on the veranda, the couple’s iPads still lay there.

Inside, their beds still were still in a mess. Expensive camera equipment lay stashed in one corner while their suitcases and clothes were still there.

He claimed the couple had been running the farm for the past two years. He did not know what happened in the preceding three years.

The ambitious vegetable farmers came to Fiji from Ryazan City, in Russia, five years ago to invest here and build a fortune.

They leased an iTaukei land in the Nausori Highlands and began farming. They lived in converted empty shipping container on the hills of Kachiquari, off a feeder road.

They grew pumpkins, water melons, tomatoes, pineapples and few other vegetables which they sold to resorts and market vendors.

He said whatever money was brought in from sales was divided equally amongst them.

Mr Luzanenko, who is from Krasnodar City, only met the couple, who he said were in their late 40’s, through the internet and was invited to come to Fiji to work as a business partner on their farm.

He said the couple left “without even speaking to me.”

“I tried calling several times on Yuri’s phone but no answer and then it was diverted.”

On whether they could have flown out, Mr Luzanenko said the couple’s clothes and travelling bags were still there in the house.

However, he said their financial problems included the amount of arrears for the lease of the land that was still owing to the iTaukei Land Trust Board.

“The financial situation was very bad,” Mr Luzanenko said.

“I have very little money for myself right now.”

Their farm seemed to be struggling as whatever was planted there seemed to be taking its toll under the western heat.

Divisional crime officer West Acting Superintendant of Police Aliksio Lawakeni is heading the investigations. Police were still listing the couple as missing last night.

Edited by Nemani Delaibatiki

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