AS thousands of schoolchildren nationwide started their second term holidays yesterday in the company of family and friends, a distraught mother mourned the loss of her two-year-old child.
Alena Lili Tuieli, of Viseisei Village in Lautoka, could not hold back her tears as she described to this newspaper the disappearance of her two-year-old daughter Josie Talai Tuieli, whose body was found near the Vuda Marina in Lautoka yesterday.
According to the police, the child was playing with friends outside their family home on Sunday afternoon before she disappeared.
"I was watching her while she played with some of her friends near our home," said Mrs Tuieli.
"Fifteen minutes later, I went outside to check on her but she was not to be seen.
"I searched for her at the sea front and enquired with other children but could not locate her."
Mrs Tuieli said it was a strange experience because it happened in broad daylight.
"I really do not know who took her away from the village.
"I never slept on Sunday night as I searched for my daughter in almost all the homes in the village and the beach, sea wall and surrounding areas."
A police search team later found her body after an extensive search. Police spokeswoman Ana Naisoro said investigations were continuing and a post-mortem examination would be conducted to ascertain the cause of death.
"The toddler was playing with friends in the presence of her 36-year-old mother and neighbours," she said.
"After some time the mother looked for her daughter and when she failed to find her, a search was conducted however with negative results."
Grandfather Alipate Tuinabai, 71, said he had never come across an incident such as this in the village.
He said he presented yaqona in a traditional request to the Tui Vuda to seek the blessing of the vanua in assisting in the search.
Mr Tuinabai said the request was accepted by the Tui Vuda, unfortunately the girl could not be saved.
"It was shocking how my granddaughter could have disappeared from our midst," he said.
"We even requested some prayer groups to pray for my granddaughter during the search."