NEWS

Highlands Tragedy: ‘Witchdoctor’ Among Suspects

A man who Police say is a witchdoctor and his wife are the prime suspects in the deaths of five members of a family in Legalega, Nadi.
30 Aug 2019 12:22
Highlands Tragedy: ‘Witchdoctor’ Among Suspects
Dead...Nileshni Kumar and her two daughters Sana and Samara.

A man who Police say is a witchdoctor and his wife are the prime suspects in the deaths of five members of a family in Legalega, Nadi.

The couple have a Permanent Residency status in New Zealand and they are known to be living in Christchurch for the past few years.

The man was released from Police custody on Wednesday evening as the 48-hour period for which he can be kept had expired.

His wife will be released by Police this morning as the 48-hour period for her to be kept in custody expires.

An application was made by the Police, through the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, in the High Court at Lautoka yesterday, to keep the couple in custody until September 3, to carry out further investigations.

It is understood that the DPP’s office had submitted the seriousness of the offence and that it had taken place in the interior of Nausori Highlands and that was why it was taking a long time for Police to investigate.

Police officers question neighbours outside the house of the late Kumar family in Legalega, Nadi, on August 29, 2019. Photos: Waisea Nasokia

Police officers question neighbours outside the house of the late Kumar family in Legalega, Nadi, on August 29, 2019. Photos: Waisea Nasokia

The couple’s defence lawyers, Jashvir Singh and Munsami Chetty, submitted that there was no supporting evidence that the couple was involved in the offence.

They said the couple would cooperate with the Police if they were needed.

After listening to arguments, the court dismissed the application for an extension of time to keep the couple in Police custody until September 3.

However, Police confirmed last night that the court issued a stop departure order against the couple, which means that they cannot leave the country and return to New Zealand.

The couple was taken in by Police for questioning in connection with the deaths of Nirmal Kumar, 63, his wife Usha Kumar, 54, their daughter Nileshni Kumar, 34, and her two daughters Sana, 11, and Samarah, 8.

The bodies of the five people were found at the Nausori Highlands in Nadi on Monday morning.

Samaira Kumar, who turns one-year-old tomorrow, and who was being looked after by the Kumar’s, was found alive near the dead bodies.

A car believed to be owned by Mr Kumar was found parked at a supermarket car park near Nadi International Airport, a few hours after the discovery of the bodies in the treacherous mountain region.

A policeman guards the house as the Police Forensic team carryout their work at home in Legalega, Nadi yesterday. Photo: WAISEA NASOKIA

A policeman guards the house as the Police Forensic team carryout their work at home in Legalega, Nadi yesterday. Photo: WAISEA NASOKIA

Police spokesperson Ana Naisoro said yesterday that the findings of the post-mortem on Wednesday were consistent with an alleged substance ingested by all five victims, which resulted in their deaths.

Ms Naisoro said more tests would be conducted by the Fiji Police Chemistry Scientific Lab in Nasova, Suva.

A Police officer involved in the investigations said last night that the couple could not leave the country as per the stop departure order issued by the High Court at Lautoka.

“We released the man, who we have been told is a witchdoctor, yesterday (Wednesday) and we will release the woman when her 48 hours expires tomorrow (today),” he said.

“They are our prime suspects right now. According to the evidence that we have, we tried to exhaust all avenues to keep them in custody longer for questioning in connection with the five deaths.

“We also ran a check on the couple and they are both known in our Police records, so we are just wondering now how they got a PR for New Zealand.”

The officer said they were waiting for the results of further tests by their forensics department, saying there was not a likelihood at this stage of samples being sent overseas as they had the capability to do it in Suva.

Police Forensic team at thier home in Legalega, Nadi yesterday. Photo: WAISEA NASOKIA

Police Forensic team at thier home in Legalega, Nadi yesterday. Photo: WAISEA NASOKIA

He said further tests in Suva were likely to take between two and three weeks as they had to ascertain what chemical was used that caused the deaths of three adults and two children.

“We will get the couple in for questioning at any time as our investigations progress and we are still trying to ascertain the motive for the killings,” he said.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

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