NEWS

Deceased Visited Witchcraft Doctor, Witness Says

The prosecution’s witness and the father of Ms Devi, testified that he accompanied his daughter and son-in-law Nirmal to a witchcraft doctor named Mukun in Rakiraki.
17 Dec 2021 11:40
Deceased Visited Witchcraft Doctor, Witness Says

The High Court in Lautoka heard yesterday that the deceased Usha Devi visited a witchcraft doctor.

The prosecution’s witness and the father of Ms Devi, testified that he accompanied his daughter and son-in-law Nirmal to a witchcraft doctor named Mukun in Rakiraki.

He testified that after visiting the witchcraft doctor, his daughter was cured. This evidence came to light on the second day of the trial of 63-year-old New Zealand resident, Muhammed Raheesh Isoof, who is accused of murdering a family of five at Nausori Highlands in Nadi in August 2019. He denies all charges. The three-week-long trial is presided by Judge Justice Thushara Rajasinghe.

 

Representations:

The State prosecutors are Semi Babitu, Taitusi Tuenuku, and Prenika Lata from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The defence counsels are Iqbal Khan, Degei Sadrata, and Tevita Kalou from Iqbal Khan and Associates.

 

Trial Day 2:

Prosecution Witness 5: Rangeeta Devi, 35.

Ms Devi is the youngest daughter of the deceased couple, Mr Kumar and Ms Devi.

She testified that she had known Isoof, whom the family identify as Kamal since her childhood.

She said Kamal was like her father’s biological brother and whenever he would come from New Zealand, he would be at her father’s house every day.

She told the court that on August 31, 2019, Samaira was to turn one-year-old and she wanted to gift Samaira a pair of earrings for which she met her mom, sister, nieces, and Samaira at a jewelry shop in Nadi Town.

Ms Devi testified that she chose a pair of earrings for Samaira and showed it to her mother who also liked it and afterward Ms Devi purchased it.

She said she gave the earring to her mother to keep when she saw her mother take out a tissue for her black handbag containing their jewelry.

She said she was shocked when she witnessed that and questioned her mother why she was roaming in Nadi Town with all the jewelry as it was not safe.

“My mother said she wanted to weigh it and I questioned her why, to which she said it was because they were traveling and had to fill a form,” Ms Devi testified.

“She did not inform me of what kind of a form it was and the girl at the jewelry shop weighed the jewellery and wrote it on a piece of paper and gave it all back to my mother.

“After that, I said goodbye to my family and left.”

Ms Devi said that as per her knowledge, her mother was to travel to Australia, to her sister in September.

She testified that her mother brought a 22-carat big necklace with earrings, two small necklace sets with earrings, a big set of earrings, and six gold bangles.

She also told the court that her mother used to keep the jewellery in a kitchen drawer.

Ms Devi said the last time she spoke to her mother was on August 24, 2019, at night and found out about her family’s death on August 26, 2019.

She testified that while browsing social media came across a post stating bodies found at Nausori Highlands.

She said her sister from Australia called her and told her to leave work and to go look for their parents.

“I asked my sister as to what happened and my sister said she did not know and no one was home and asked me to go look for them,” Ms Devi said.

“I informed my manager and decided to leave work to look for my parents when my husband called and asked me of my whereabouts.

“I told my husband that I was leaving work and going to Legalega.

“When I reached my parent’s house, the yellow tape was pulled around the house and two Criminal Investigations Department officers were outside.

“One of the officers informed me that my parents died and a Police officer asked my husband to go to the Nadi Hospital where we went and stayed until 5.30pm till the bodies arrived.

“Before that, I found out that Samaira was with the social welfare care at the Hospital and I requested to be allowed to see her,” Ms Devi said.

She testified that Samaira was a chubby and fair girl, but on the day she looked slim, dark, and had not eaten.

She said after that, she identified the bodies of her family members and later went with the Police forensic team to search their house.

Ms Devi said the team found some documents from her father’s room, her mother’s mobile phone, Sana and Samara’s iPad, some items from Ms Kajal’s room, and the earrings she had gifted Samaira.

When Ms Lata questioned Ms Devi about her mother’s jewellery, Ms Devi responded that the forensic team searched the entire house, but the jewellery was not found to date.

 

Audio recording issue

Ms Devi also testified that as part of the investigation for the case, she was shown photographs found in the mobile phone and was asked to listen to an audio recording.

The state requested for the audio recording to be played in court for the witness to identify the voices, however, Mr Khan objected to it. The witness was excused from the courtroom and Mr Khan asked the court to see the mobile device on which the recording was found. Ms Lata said the mobile device was with the Investigating Officer and that the officer would be giving evidence of the extraction of the audio from the device.

She told the court that the witness would only be identifying the voices in the audio recording. Mr Khan said that with advanced technology, the date and time of the audio recording could be changed and he needed to see it before the audio was played so he could cross-examine the witness as well.

Justice Rajasinghe told the State that this was a very important trial where five family members died and a man was facing murder charges. He said the accused, if found guilty, was looking at serving the rest of his time in prison. He told the State prosecution that they should have thought about presenting the audio recording before they called the witness on the stand to tell the court information of the audio.

He also said the same was not presented in the State’s case and all things should have been done in a proper manner.

 

Judge questions State prosecution

Justice Rajasinghe questioned the State on the whereabouts of the State’s trial disclosures. Mr Babitu told the court that the Office of the DPP’s registry was preparing the same. Justice Rajasinghe questioned the State whether they were prepared for trial and said they were still in the process of preparing, which meant the State was not ready for trial.

He questioned the State if they took the trial as a joke to which Mr Babitu responded no.

Justice Rajasinghe told the State that it was very important to give descriptions and information of the device to the defence counsel in case if they wished to get an expert opinion. He told the State that they should always complete their disclosures according to their issues and witnesses.

Mr Babitu told the court that he provided the defence counsel with what he was provided by the Police.

Justice Rajasinghe said the State was not a messenger of the Police and under the Constitution, the DPP was given a right to prosecute people and the State prosecutors were given the authority to prosecute people for the DPP.

He said the disclosures were one of the main components of a trial and in this case, the State was still struggling to organise the trial. He questioned the State if they had extracted the date and time of the photos and other materials which was asked to do so in a pre-trial conference stage in October.

Mr Babitu said it was only done for the CCTV footage and the photos, not for the audio. Justice Rajasinghe then allowed the State to play the audio-only for the purpose of identifying the voices.

 

Prosecution Witness 5: Continuation

Ms Devi confirmed to the court that she heard the audio recording at Namaka Police Station. She said the audio was played on her father’s mobile phone and she did not know what it was about.

She said she only recognised her mother’s voice and there was another person, but she did not know whose voice it was.

She also said that she was shown a photo of the mountain which had a man standing in the back with a bag pack.

She testified that when the photo was zoomed in, she saw Kamal (Isoof) in the photo and pointed to Isoof in court to identify it was him who was in the photo.

 

Cross-Examination:

Mr Khan questioned Ms Devi on the number of times she had given her statement to the Police, however, she said a few times, but different Police officers took the statement.

 

Prosecution Witness 6: Daya Ram, 87.

Mr Ram – the father of Ms Devi and the father-in-law of Mr Kumar, testified to the court that the last time he met his daughter and Mr Kumar was when they went to his house to invite them to a big party.

He said they went and told him that there was a Hindu religious function at their home and an engagement.

Mr Ram told the court that he knew Isoof as Kamal and knew him well because he lived next to Mr Kumar’s house.

He said he used to communicate with Kamal often and had kava with him on a few occasions. Mr Ram said at one time while having kava, Kamal mention to him that he could fix someone if there was a problem with that person because he had “jinn” with him.

“Kamal told me that if there was a problem, he took the money and cured the person,” Mr Ram claimed.

“I told Kamal that I have something stronger than you as I pray to Lord Hanuman.

“Nirmal and Usha were very close to Kamal,” Mr Ram said.

He said the last conversation he had with his daughter was when she went to his house.

Mr Ram testified that Usha told him that Kamal had told her and her family that he had the Australian High Commission and New Zealand High Commission in his hands and could take them to Australia and New Zealand. He said that Kamal told them the amount of money they made while working in Fiji was less and in one year in Australia, they could become millionaires.

Mr Ram testified that Usha told him on the day, of which he could not recall the date of, that Kamal had taken Usha and her family to the Nausori Highlands.

“Usha told me that Kamal told them he would take them to Nausori Highlands and pray for them,” Mr Ram claimed.

“Kamal told Usha to wear all her jewellery and go with him.

“Kamal told Usha that he would take them at the Nausori Highlands where they would have to sit in a line and Kamal would recite something and give medicine to drink which they have to drink all at once.

“I told her if she felt she’d like to go then she can,” Mr Ram said.

He said he found out about the death of his daughter and her family through his son.

 

Cross-Examination:

Mr Khan questioned the witness, that in his statement dated August 27, 2019, he did not mention anything about the jewellery.

Mr Ram said he did mention it to the Police officers when they went to his house to take his statement.

He also told the court that he mentioned it to the Police officer that the information was not in his statement and asked why they did not write it.

However, Mr Ram also claimed that yesterday he informed a Police officer that most things were missing from his Police station, to which the officer informed him to tell the information in court.

Mr Khan put it to the accused that 50 per cent of Mr Ram’s evidence given in court was not true to which Mr Ram replied that he took oath on the Holy Ramayana and he would not lie.

Mr Khan then questioned the witness whether he was blaming the Police for missing information from his statement.

Mr Ram said he did not know and it was on the Police. He said his family members died and he was hurt.

Justice Rajasinghe then explained to the witness that Mr Khan was not trying to hurt his feelings, but as a Court officer he was doing his duties. He told the witness that Mr Khan was not asking questions in a personal capacity and that the Court needed to find out the truth.

Mr Khan then asked the witness that if he had hurt Mr Ram’s feelings, he apologised, but he was doing his job as a counsel.

Mr Khan questioned Mr Ram if Nirmal and Usha were sick people, to which Mr Ram responded that his daughter was doing all the work, but was a little sick.

Mr Khan questioned the witness whether it was true that Usha visited witchcraft doctors to which Mr Ram replied that only once she had to a witchcraft doctor in Rakiraki and he had accompanied her. Mr Khan questioned the witness if it was correct that he told the Police Usha had visited many witchcraft doctors and places.

Mr Ram testified that she visited only once, to a temple between Vatukoula Gold Mine and Tavua and that he did not say she visited many witchcraft doctors.

Mr Khan questioned the witness about his statement, which read that after a year his daughter got married, she was sick with evil spirit and visited many witchcraft doctors and places.

Mr Ram said he did not tell the Police of such information.

Mr Ram also testified that Nirmal and Usha had visited a witchcraft doctor in Rakiraki named Mukun and he had accompanied them. Mr Ram claimed that after seeing the witchcraft doctor named Mukun, his daughter had recovered.

Mr Khan asked the witness whether he recalled a fight between Ms Kajal and her husband Shelvin where he swore at her when he went to Mr Kumar’s house to take his belongings. Mr Ram testified that he did recall the fight and heard Shelvin swear at Ms Kajal.

Mr Khan asked the witness if it was correct that when Shelvin went outside, he said to Ms Kajal “now you see what will happen”.

Mr Ram responded yes.

 

Prosecution Witness 7: Bijma Wati, 75.

Ms Wati is the mother of Usha Devi and wife of Mr Ram. She met her daughter a week before the incident when Ms Devi and Mr Kumar went to her house to invite them for prayer, Father’s Day celebration, engagement, and birthday party.

Ms Wati said she recalled the conversation she had with Usha in which Usha told her that Kamal would take them to Nausori Highlands and perform a prayer.

She said Usha told her that Kamal asked her to wear all her jewellery and go with them where the prayer will be done. She also said that all of the family members were asked to go and were to be taken by Kamal.

“On Monday, I don’t recall the date, I went to my daughter’s house in Legalega, Nadi with my other daughter for the prayer,” Ms Wati said. “When we went, no one was at the house and we waited for a while until I went to the back and called out saying ‘Usha we are here’.

“One lady from Kamal’s house came to us because my granddaughter from Australia called her and informed her that I was there.

“We looked around for them and followed the lady back to Kamal’s house where Kamal told me that he tried to call Nirmal and Usha, but they were not answering their mobile phones. It was a double story house and I saw two boys drinking kava and going through their phone and said four bodies were found while one was still missing.

“I was really upset and my daughter and I went to Usha’s house,” Ms Wati said.

She testified that when Police officers arrived at Nirmal’s house and showed a photo of Samaira asking if she knew the baby.

She said she told the Police officer that she knew the baby and that it was her granddaughter’s baby.

 

Cross-Examination:

Mr Khan questioned the witness if she had mentioned to the Police that Usha had visited her house a week prior to the incident to which Ms Wati said she did.

Mr Khan asked whether she informed the Police of the conversation she had with Usha to which Ms Wati said she did tell Police and that Kamal would take them for prayer at Nausori Highlands.

She also told the court that after she gave her statement, no one read it back to her as she was uneducated and could not read. She said the officer asked her to sign the statement, but she placed her thumbprint instead.

Mr Khan then alleged to Ms Wati that the Police officers only recorded what she had informed the officers of to which Ms Wati said she told them everything, but she did not know what they wrote in the statement and what they missed.

Mr Khan also asked Ms Wati if the evidence she gave yesterday was not what she informed the Police on August 26, 2019, when they took her statement.

Ms Wati said she informed the Police of everything she told the court.

Ms Wati’s statement was read out in court by the court clerk which stated that Usha had sickness and had body pain and went to different witchcraft doctors to cure herself.

Her statement read that Usha had told her that Kamal prayed at his house and had informed her that he would cure her for good as he prayed to a ‘jinn’.

 



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