IT was sometime in early May 2006 that news of the disappearance of a family spread through the country like wildfire.
Apart from the fact that the family of four stopped at a church before they disappeared, no one knew where they went to from their place of worship.
The only thing known is that instead of turning right towards their home, the family turned left after leaving the church on a rainy night.
What happened to them afterwards remains a mystery although assumptions can be made on what could have happened to the family.
Originally of Labasa, Davendra Kumar, his wife Nirupa Devi, daughter Dipshika, nine, and son Edwin, three, moved to Raiwaqa in Navua in early 2006.
Mr Kumar's eldest child Dipika, who is in the US now, had moved to Suva earlier and was living with a cousin and was studing at the university.
The taxi operator decided to move to the Central Division with his small family to start a new life.
While moving from Labasa to Navua, Kumar's younger brother Hari Narayan, a nephew Verend Prasad and other relatives assisted him greatly.
As Kumar and his family settled down in Raiwaqa, Mr Prasad decided to keep a distance from his uncle to allow him to live an independent life with his family.
The family also forged good relationships with their new neighbours in Raiwaqa as they settled into a new environment.
It was sometime in April 2006 when the Kumar family left their home to go to what is believed to be the Navua Hospital.
From the hospital, the family stopped at the Emmanuel Assemblies of God Church in Calia, Navua while on their way home.
After spending a few hours in church, from about 3pm until it got dark, the family bid the church pastor's wife farewell and left.
But they left behind some things on a pew in church which no other person or family would dare to forget — their land, taxi and other important documents.
Why they left the important documents and a mobile phone behind in church is not known and it is something that Mr Kumar's relatives also wonder about to this day.
The family's disappearance was only known when Mr Prasad went to their house in early May 2006 to deliver his son's first birthday invitation.
Mr Prasad had tried calling his uncle for some time prior to visiting his house but he could not get any response.
After being told by Mr Kumar's neighbours that they had not seen the family for quite some time, Mr Prasad enquired with other relatives and then informed police.
It was then that a search was carried out for the missing family and their taxi registration LT1511, which has also not been found so far.
On May 15, 2006, The Fiji Times reported that a team from the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission would help police with the search.
Detective Sergeant Pradeep Kumar of Navua Police Station told this newspaper then that a team of four police divers spent almost four hours searching the bottom of the Navua River near the bridge and a certain spot at Vakabalea estuary.
Police efforts then focused on the Navua waterways after considering reports of a higher than usual tide at the time the family was last seen.
On May 18, 2006, this newspaper reported that specialist staff members from SOPAC were part of the search but they had not found anything yet.
Mr Narayan also said SOPAC helped with the search but there was neither any trace of his brother's family nor their taxi.
On June 30, 2006, this newspaper reported that Fiji police had sought the assistance of New Zealand police in locating the missing family, as it was more than two months by then.
The then Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes had said since the matter came to light on May 3 (2006), the uniformed branch, Criminal Investigations Department, Tactical Response Unit, traffic and dog sections had spent 1300 hours on the search.
Mr Hughes said then that police searched large tracts of land and forest, side roads and main roads leading up to Sigatoka in case the family had been involved in an accident.
"The Director CID has reviewed the case and is satisfied that everything possible was done to locate the family," he had said.
"We have already commenced with New Zealand police detectives to come over and ensure that no stones were left unturned during the investigation process.
"That will be the next phase of our investigations and we're hopeful that they will be found. I certainly understand the grief of those associated with the family," Mr Hughes had said.
On August 8, this newspaper reported that Senior Superintendent Malcolm Burgess had arrived in the country from New Zealand to assist local police and to review the file of the missing family.
After reviewing the case file, the New Zealand police detective said the family members were "victims of adverse weather conditions."
Supt Burgess said then that he found police efforts in searching for the missing family were extensive and thorough.
"From what I've seen, this appears to be a case of a family that has gone missing because of adverse weather conditions rather than the suggestion of foul play," he said then.
"I spent two days in Navua at the places where the events were thought to have taken place and the scale of the search is quite impressive.
"The finer details of my report are a matter for them (Fiji police) but in general terms they've had a very extensive and incredibly thorough search for the missing family and a thorough inquiry.
"They can be reasonably satisfied with the job that they have done.
"I would have thought that without some more specific information it would be really difficult and not useful, frankly, to mount more searches.
"I don't think that there is any new information that will assist them," Supt Burgess told this newspaper then.
Mr Narayan, a former police officer himself, said police carried out a thorough search for his brother's family for more almost two months.
"Some family members still think they were the victims of foul play but being a former police, I think it was an accident," he said. He agreed with the findings of the New Zealand police expert that Mr Kumar and his family were victims of the adverse weather.
On September 3, 2007, this newspaper reported that clothes found on two decomposed bodies in Deuba were identified as those of Mr and Mrs Kumar.
The clothes were identified by the couple's eldest child, Dipika and other relatives.
But there was no sign of Dipshika or Edwin's bodies, leave alone their clothes.
Police also searched the Navua River mouth and waters off the spot where the couple's bodies were found but they could not find their taxi.
After identifying her parents' clothes, Dipika told this newspaper that, "It is quite relieving but now what's left is just to know what exactly happened to them.
"All along I lived with the assumption that they were missing but still alive.
"It is strange though that two bodies were found together when there has been frequent flooding in Navua which would have definitely separated the bodies a long time ago," she had said.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Crime then, Superintendent of Police Nasir Ali had said their theory that the corpses, which were headless and with missing limbs, were preserved by salt after being enclosed in the vehicle had been presented by an expert consultant.
Coral deposits and metal rust found on the clothes moved detectives to suggest that they (couple) had been trapped in the vehicle, which then turned them loose.
On September 16, 2007, this newspaper reported that the search for the remaining two bodies of the Kumar family was called off because of bad weather conditions.
Mr Narayan said in an interview two weeks ago that his brother and sister-in-law's bodies could have got free from their taxi and drifted towards the shore.He said Dipshika and Edwin's bodies could still be trapped inside the car somewhere in deep waters.
The desperation by Mr Kumar's relatives to locate him and his family members saw them going to witchdoctors and spending about $10,000 on them.
Apart from "milking" money out of the grieving relatives, the witchdoctors only sent them on wild goose chases.
Mr Prasad, the closest nephew of Mr Kumar, said like some other relatives, he was in the dark as to what really happened to his uncle's family.
He summed things up by saying that the disappearance of his uncle and two little cousins "is a mystery and only God knows what happened to them."
It can only be assumed that the family's taxi went into the flooded Navua River and was swept out to sea.
But what really happened to them remains a mystery to this day and will remain so until some new evidence comes to light on their disappearance.