Feature

Highlands Tragedy: Is She The Key Witness?

She certainly is not old enough to tell anyone about what happened in the treacherous mountain region more than a week ago.
12 Sep 2019 16:48
Highlands Tragedy: Is She The Key Witness?
Samaira Kumar

She may be the only witness to what happened to five of her family members in the Nausori Highlands.

But she certainly is not old enough to tell anyone about what happened in the treacherous mountain region more than a week ago.

Did one-year-old Samaira see her family members’ dying, or was she left there after the five bodies were presumably dumped where they were found on the morning of August 26?

If the killings happened the previous night (Sunday) or if the bodies were dumped there on that night, then how could the baby have survived the misty and cold night in the mountains until she was discovered the next morning?

This is not forgetting reports that the bodies were discovered a few metres away from the edge of a cliff.

Or was little Samaira left there when the killer or killers came to check later at night or before sunrise on Monday whether the five victims were dead or alive after giving them some kind of poisonous food or drink?

Samaira. Photo: Mereleki Nai

Samaira. Photo: Mereleki Nai

These are some questions being asked as people talk about the case in the Western part of the main island but they can only be answered when someone is charged in connection with the five deaths, taken to court and put on trial.

While they remain unanswered questions at this stage, the fact remains that little Samaira is miraculously alive and now believed to be with her mother who flew in from Australia after hearing about the tragedy.

Irrespective of how long she was near her dead grandparents’ and relatives’ bodies, whether throughout the night or for a few hours before they were discovered, she remained near them and did not crawl around, as this could have led to her falling off the cliff.

 

Police at the scene close to where the bodies were found.

Police at the scene close to where the bodies were found.

 

Nirmal Kumar, 63, a carpenter of Legalega in Nadi, his wife Usha Kumar, 54, their daughter Nileshni Kajal, 34, and her daughters Sana, 11, and Samarah, 8, were found in the treacherous mountains.

Setareki Nalaga, who discovered the bodies while checking his cows that morning, told Stuff that four bodies were lying close to each other and he spotted a baby sitting next to a body, with the head lying on the stomach.

“I called out several times. The baby looked up at me and then looked back down. I’ve lived here all my life and I knew straight away that this was not normal,” he told the New Zealand media organisation.

Mr Nalaga said the bodies were laid on a rug at the top of a cliff, like they were placed there in a pattern, adding that “it all looked very suspicious”.

He said he discovered the fifth body, that of a woman who was lying metres away with an empty bottle in her hand and since he was scared, he rode away on his horse to get some help which he found in the form of a truck driver.

They rescued the baby, with Mr Nalaga saying that he could not believe the baby had survived as the spot was near a huge drop of a cliff.

“The baby could have wandered off and fallen off the cliffs. And on Sunday night it was very cold here, how the baby survived only God knows,” he told Stuff.

Kelera Toloi, 25, who was among the first group of people to be alerted and who attended to the baby, had told the Fiji Sun that fortunately, the baby could not walk yet or else she would have fallen off the cliff.

Samaira was admitted at Lautoka Hospital for a few days.

Whatever she saw and went through will surely haunt her to some extent for the next few years of her life, but she no doubt is a key witness in the case, unfortunately, she is still too young to say anything.

She will be known as the Miracle Baby for years to come, but whatever she probably saw and experienced will never be known to anyone – it is something that is expected to fade away in her mind as she grows up.

Post Mortem

The post-mortem reveals that the five people died after ingesting some kind of chemical.

Police are carrying out further tests at their laboratory in Nasova, Suva and results are expected to be available in two to three weeks.

It could be possible that the poisonous chemical was added in the five victims’ food or drink, resulting in their deaths, if not within minutes then hours.

The 5 victims found in the Nausori Highlands are alleged to have died after consuming a substance. Police are conducting more tests to determine what the five consumed.

The 5 victims found in the Nausori Highlands are alleged to have died after consuming a substance. Police are conducting more tests to determine what the five consumed.

Suspects

A Fijian couple who have Permanent Residency in New Zealand are persons of Police interest in the five deaths and they were questioned by Police last week.

The High Court in Lautoka refused an application by Police, through the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, to keep the suspects in custody until September 3 for interrogation, thus resulting in them being released at the expiry of the 48-hour time frame.

However, the court issued a stop departure order against the couple who are believed to be living at Legalega, in the same neighbourhood as the deceased family.

Police investigations

It is one of those big cases that have come into the Police records in recent years and answers are still being sought by the grieving family members and the public.

While there are many stories going around regarding the tragedy in the highlands, Police are tightlipped on the investigations, saying they do not want to divulge much information on the case as investigators carry out their work.

Edited by Susana Tuilau

Feedback: avinesh.gopal@fijisun.com.fj

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