DESPERATION and worry grew for relatives as time passed without any word or trace of the missing Kumar family.
The desperation saw relatives of Davendra Kumar visiting witchdoctors in all corners of Viti Levu with the hope of getting clues to locate him, his wife and two small children.
But relatives were always led on a wild goose chase by the witchdoctors, who only chewed up a substantial amount of money from Mr Kumar's desperate relatives.
Mr Kumar's nephew, Verend Prasad said he and other relatives spent about $10,000 on witchdoctors in the search for his missing relatives.
The first relative to know that Mr Kumar and his family were missing was Mr Prasad, who went to their house in Raiwaqa, Navua to invite them to his son's first birthday celebration.
"With my grandfather, I chose the block of land in Raiwaqa for my mama (uncle) and his family to move to from Labasa," Mr Prasad told The Fiji Times.
"He dismantled part of his house in Labasa and shipped it to my place in Navua, as I was staying near the town at that time.
"I helped him a lot and with government assistance, we built his house in Raiwaqa and he settled down well."
Mr Prasad said his uncle operated a taxi in Labasa and after moving to Navua, he transferred the taxi base from Labasa to Tamavua in Suva.
"It was during that time that I thought of being away from him for some time so he can live independently with his family and do things without anyone's assistance.
"I stopped making frequent visits to his house when his taxi base was transferred from Labasa to Tamavua.
"However, I spent two weekends with him to show him the roads in Suva so that he would know the various places."
Mr Prasad said his uncle gave the taxi to a driver and he decided to start farming on a small scale.
He said his uncle later took the taxi back when the driver failed to give him the income they had agreed on. "We were very close but we had less communication around that time because I wanted him to fend for himself and not be dependent on anyone.
"It was sometime in late April 2006 when I was calling him to invite him to my son's first birthday celebration but his mobile phone was diverted.
"When I didn't get any answer after several calls, I decided to go up to Raiwaqa and deliver the birthday invitation personally."
Mr Prasad recalls going to Raiwaqa on a Wednesday with his wife.
He said when they arrived at Mr Kumar's house, no one was there but some clothes were hanging outside.
"I then asked a neighbour who told me that my uncle and them had not been at their home for the past two days or so.
"We then came back thinking that they would return home later that day and I returned to my uncle's place the next day," he said.
Mr Prasad said he was frightened when he found out that his uncle and his family had not arrived home yet and the clothes were still hanging outside.
"I got that feeling that something was wrong. I can't actually describe how I felt, it was just that eerie kind of feeling.
"I then went home and started contacting my relatives to find out if they had seen my uncle and his family.
"But no one was aware of their whereabouts and everyone became quite worried and started contacting everyone around."
Mr Prasad said his uncle's eldest child Dipika, who got married and moved to the US last year, was staying at his brother Vinod's place at that time.
But, he said, no one told her that her family was missing as it was time for her university exams.
He said after reporting the matter to Navua police that same night, he and other relatives went with police officers to his uncle's house in Raiwaqa.
"Again, we were very frightened as it was quite dark, the house was in the interior and we only had torches. We broke down the door and went inside and saw food in the pots, tea, some dried clothes and the children's toys.
"The food and tea had gone bad.
"By seeing the food and other things there, it was obvious that my uncle and his family were supposed to return home on the same day they left home.
"The curtains were also not drawn and we were very sad after returning from there. We knew that something was wrong."
Mr Prasad said he had started his business at that time and because of his uncle's family's disappearance, he did not work for one month to be part of the search.
He said all relatives were very worried about the missing family members and as days went by, the desperation grew.
"You know how some Indians are and in our desperation to get clues to find my uncle and his family, we also went to witchdoctors," he said.
"The first one we went to told us that someone had kidnapped my uncle and his family and they were somewhere in the jungle.
"He told us that we will find them and after hearing this, one of my uncles who was present there took out $200 and gave it to him. I also gave the witchdoctor $50."
Mr Prasad said he and the other relatives left the witchdoctor's house and continued to search for the missing family.
"While searching, we were communicating with the witchdoctor via mobile phone and he told us to look here and look there in the jungle.
"But when we didn't find any trace of my uncle and his family, contrary to what the witchdoctor had said, we called him again but he had switched off his phone.
"Apart from that witchdoctor, we went to about 15 other witchdoctors in different parts of Viti Levu in the hope of getting some clues to locate my uncle and his family.
"We spent about $10,000 on witchdoctors alone and another $10,000 on hiring four-wheel drive vehicles and other transport for the search in the highlands."
Mr Prasad said he and his relatives wasted a substantial amount of money on witchdoctors, as they were always sent on a wild goose chase.
The visits to the witchdoctors were made during the almost two months that relatives of the missing family and police were carrying out an extensive search for them.
It was after almost two months into the search and after the assistance of a New Zealand police expert, who was called in, that local police decided to call off the search.
Relatives also decided to call off the search as there was no trace of the missing family or their taxi despite the extensive search, including that of the Navua River from as far as the hills. Mr Prasad said sometimes he still wondered why his uncle and the family left behind their important documents on a pew in the Emmanuel Assemblies of God Church in Calia.
He said no one could forget important documents for their land and other things, with a mobile phone, somewhere.
"If someone killed them, there should be a reason for it.
"My uncle wasn't rich, he had no big properties and he also didn't have any personal problems with anyone.
"And there was also no reason for him to commit suicide with his family and whatever happened could have been an accident too.
"I don't know what happened, I don't have any answers.
"It's a mystery and only God knows what happened to my uncle and his family," said Mr Prasad.
* FINAL PART NEXT WEEK: The conclusion at the end of the search.