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Piecing together family's last moment

Avinesh Gopal
Tuesday, October 16, 2012

DAVENDRA Kumar was the second youngest in a family of four brothers and four sisters.

He grew up with his parents and siblings in a farming community on the outskirts of Labasa Town in Vanua Levu.

While in Labasa, the 42-year old worked at a relative's hydraulic hose shop and also operated a taxi business.

It was in early 2006 that he decided to move to the Central Division with his family.

His younger brother, Hari Narayan, who operates a taxi business in Lautoka, came to the rescue of his eldest brother at that time.

Mr Narayan said he paid the boat fares and freight costs for his brother's family to move from Labasa to Raiwaqa in Navua.

"I visited him in Raiwaqa a few times after he had moved there with his family," he said in a interview.

"I was shocked when I learnt from my nephew about my brother, his wife and two children's disappearance.

"What shocked me was that how could he and his family disappear when he had lived in Raiwaqa for three months and he had a fair knowledge of the area.

"I then contacted Davendra's brother-in-law, who thought that he had come to me in Lautoka during the Easter weekend.

"Davendra had told him that he may be coming to me during the Easter weekend with his family, so I think that's why the neighbours too didn't bother much.

"Another scenario was that our mother was sick in Labasa and relatives thought they could have gone there to visit her."

Mr Narayan said he checked with all family members, relatives and friends but they were unaware of Davendra and his family's whereabouts.

"I even checked with the Immigration Department and the various High Commissions in Fiji but there was no record of them leaving the country."

"We then set up a search after learning that they had not left the country and we also had to hire rental cars and other vehicles to search for them.

"The search went on for more than two months and we even sought the help of a regional organisation based in Suva in searching the waterways.

"Our search for my brother and his family started from the top of Serua and Namosi (provinces) and we came down."

Mr Narayan said some very important documents that belonged to his brother were found in the Emmanuel Assemblies of God Church in Calia, Navua a day after they went there.

Emmanuel AOG Church pastor Devendra Sagar confirmed that the Kumar family visited the church on the day they were last seen.

Mr Sagar was at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital with his sick son when the Kumar family went to church and met his wife about 3pm on that day.

He said his wife called him when the Kumar family arrived in church and told him they were there and the Navua River was flooded. He said the family helped in putting the musical instruments and other things up as they could have been damaged if the Navua River burst its banks and flooded the area.

"There was another family in church at that time too and my wife told both families that she was tired and was going to take a nap while they chatted," he said.

Mr Sagar said according to his wife, the two families spoke for a long time and when she woke up later in the evening, the Kumar family was still in church while the other had left.

"It was a bit dark when my wife woke up and the Kumar family later decided to go but instead of making a right turn towards their house, they turned left towards town."

He confirmed that the family's documents, Mr Kumar's tertiary qualification certificates and a mobile phone were found on the last pew in church the next day.

"When I knew about it, I wondered why they had left the papers behind on the last pew in church," said Mr Sagar in a recent interview.

The Kumar's were very new members to the Emmanuel AOG Church in Calia, having attended three or four services before their disappearance.

Mr Narayan said the documents included an offer letter for land lease at Raiwaqa, hospital cards and Davendra's tertiary qualification certificates.

"We were baffled as to why he left the documents behind.

"Why should he leave them behind in church when he had an older daughter?

Mr Narayan said he wondered how could someone forget such important documents.

"At that time, I thought they committed suicide, maybe he had planned to commit suicide.

"I don't see any reason for them to commit suicide as my brother did not have any financial or any other problem.

"But at times I think that it could have happened or maybe it was just an accident." Mr Narayan said what saddened him was that some people took advantage of the situation and ransacked his brother's house when a search was still on for them.

"I visited them often after they moved to Raiwaqa from Labasa and I knew what things were in the house."

"But when I went to Davendra's house after the family had disappeared, I found the house ransacked.

"People took advantage of the situation, they took the refrigerator, cooking utensils and other items that were in the house when I visited them before their disappearance."

Mr Narayan said the search for his brother's family was called off after more than two months when there was no trace of them or the taxi.

He said police had also sought the assistance of an overseas police expert at that time to help them in searching for Davendra and his family.

"From what I learnt after the search, it was an accident and the family could have been washed away into the river by floodwaters.

"Some family members still think it was foul play but being a former police officer and after analysing things, I think it was an accident."

Mr Narayan said it was sometime in late August 2007 when police in Navua called him to say that two decomposed bodies were found at Taunovo Bay.

"I went to Navua to identify them — the bodies were decomposed but the clothes were intact and they belonged to my brother and sister-in-law."

He said his brother's neighbours in Raiwaqa also identified the clothes as Davendra's and that of his wife.

"The two bodies were found some distance away. My sister-in-law's body was near the shore and intact while my brother's body was on a rock in the water. It was not as intact as my sister-in-law's body because the waves must have been hitting his body and pushing him back and forth on the rock."

Mr Narayan said there was no trace of the children and neither had their clothes nor the taxi been found until now. He believes that being adults, his brother and sister-in-law's bodies forced their way out of the taxi from somewhere in the deep.

"The two children's bodies could still be trapped inside the taxi."

Mr Narayan said the family had not left any stone unturned in the search for Davendra and his family.

He said the family did whatever it could within its means to find clues to the disappearance of his brother's family.

"We even saw some witchdoctors here in Fiji and our relatives in New Zealand went to some psychics there.

"All of them told us that my brother, his wife and their two children were dead but they didn't say how they died," said Mr Narayan.

* NEXT WEEK: The emotions of the closest nephew.

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