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Murder mystery

Avinesh Gopal
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A MURDER is committed after being pre-meditated or planned or it is either a spur of the moment decision for some. The majority of murder cases in the country are solved by the police, who arrest the suspects and take them to court. In many cases, the suspects are found guilty, convicted and sentenced to prison terms while in a few, they are acquitted by the court. Some, who were sentenced to life imprisonments have also walked out free later on after successfully appealing against their conviction and sentence. But there are some murder cases in the country that have not been solved to date. One such case is of a woman whose body was found in a cassava plantation in Suva in 2009. Today we look back into the murder of Prabha Wati and how police investigations have progressed since then.

IT was early one morning when a security guard on duty at a temple heard noises in a cassava plantation some distance away.

He woke up and it was about 1.30am on October 23, 2009 and he saw a three-tonne carrier driving away from outside a garment factory. He also saw some light.

The security guard went to investigate where the light was coming from and he saw something burning in a cassava plantation.

After further investigations, he saw the burnt body of a woman at about 2am and reported the matter to the Toorak Police Post.

The woman was later identified as Prabha Wati, 58, of Brewster St in Toorak, Suva. She had been murdered metres away from her home.

Her son, daughter-in-law and neighbours were questioned by police then in connection with her death.

Ms Wati lived with her son when she was killed in a gruesome manner.

Her death was widely covered by the news media as police searched for clues into the gruesome murder of the elderly woman.

The murder not only shocked the Toorak community but people living in other places in Suva and even the country.

On January 29, 2010, The Fiji Times reported that the gruesome murder remained unsolved after three months.

The then police spokesman Sergeant Suliano Tevita told this newspaper their investigations were ongoing and no one has been charged yet.

"Police are doing what they can and as soon as there is enough evidence, charges will be laid," he had said.

It is the kind of murder that has the Toorak community baffled, as well as asking the billion dollar question: "Who did it?", this newspaper had reported.

"While these residents have their own theories and stories of what happened, it has now come to light that an hour after the murder, three men were arrested on Brewster St for a robbery.

"However, according to police, the men had come in a vehicle and were planning to escape via the drain into Epeli St on the other side of Toorak," this newspaper had reported then.

Ms Wati's son Rohit Prasad and his family were subjected to relentless questioning by police detectives.

Mr Prasad had told this newspaper then that police even took his seven-year-old daughter to the police station where detectives asked her in abrupt fashion if she had seen either of her parents strangle her grandmother.

He said life for them had changed since the tragedy.

Furthermore, Mr Prasad had told this newspaper then that a lot of people's attitude toward the family had changed with the exception of a few friends who were still standing by them.

The post-mortem examination report showed that Ms Wati was strangled before she was set alight, prompting police to treat it as a case of murder.

As time passed, the police file on the gruesome murder remained open but there were still no strong leads to solve the case.

On February 8, 2012, this newspaper did an update on the police investigations into the murder.

It was reported that the police file on the death of a woman whose body was found partly burnt about two years ago was still open.

So far, the police do not have any clue into the death of Prabha Wati, 58, on October 23, 2009, it was reported.

It was reported that Ms Wati's partly-burnt body was found about 20 metres away from where she lived with her son and daughter-in-law on Brewster St in Toorak, Suva.

Police spokesman Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri had said then that the case file on Ms Wati's death was still open for investigation.

Insp Sokomuri was reported saying that the woman's son and daughter-in-law have been questioned in connection with the matter a few times.

"But there are no clues so far in the death of the woman," he had said.

"The police are still carrying out investigations and we need to have strong evidence to charge someone and produce that person in court."

Insp Sokomuri had said that anyone with information on Ms Wati's death must contact the nearest community post or police station.

Yesterday, Insp Sokomuri said there was still no progress in investigations into Ms Wati's murder.

"The case file is still open and there have been no strong leads or any key suspects so far," he said.

Insp Sokomuri urged people who may have any information that could lead to the arrest of Ms Wati's killer or killers to contact the police.

With the case file still open, the police are relying on any new information that may be passed to them and result in the case being solved.

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