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Unsolved mysteries of yesterday

Avinesh Gopal
Tuesday, June 17, 2014

IT is a mystery for more than a decade.

Like other mysteries in the world, the disappearance of Vandhana Pritika Jeet is also one.

An update on her case was published by The Fiji Times last week.

The police confirmed last week that the file on Vandhana's disappearance was still open.

Yesterday, the police said no new information had come up after the latest publication on the case last week.

Vandhana, 16, of Madhuvani in Rakiraki, went missing on October 31, 2002, after going to a schoolmate's home in Naria.

There was not much reported on Vandhana's disappearance until three sisters disappeared in June 2005.

One of the sisters was Vandhana's friend and all of them attended Penang Sangam High School in Rakiraki.

She went missing from the roadside in front of the three sisters home in Naria, reportedly getting into a car and never to be found until today.

A man who confessed to killing the three sisters in open waters off Malake Island, where they had gone for a picnic, is serving a life sentence in prison.

The three sisters are Ashika Sherin Lata, 19, Renuka Roshni Lata, 18, and Radhika Roshni Lata, 17, whose bodies were never found.

Police spokesman Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri yesterday said the disappearance of Vandhana remains a mystery.

Insp Sokomuri confirmed that the file on her disappearance was still open but no new information has been received by the police on the case.

"We have not received any new information on the case after the story was published last week," he said.

He urged people who may have any information that could solve the case to inform police.

Similar to the request by the police, Vandhana's parents are also requesting people to help the police solve the case by passing any information they may have.

Her mother Phul Kuar said she would look for her daughter until her very last breath, adding her soul will not rest if Vandhana is not found.

Ms Kuar has also not ruled out the possibility that her daughter could have been a victim of human trafficking.

Going down memory lane, Vandhana left her home for school on October 31, 2002, and was met by her parents at the Rakiraki bus stand in the afternoon.

Ms Kuar claims that Ashika asked her to allow Vandhana to spend the night at her place because they had planned to go to the school carnival.

At first, she said she disagreed because Vandhana did not have any extra clothes with her and she had never allowed her to spend the night away from home.

Ms Kuar later agreed to allow Vandhana to spend the night at the three sisters' house, a decision she says she regrets to this day.

When Vandhana failed to return home the next afternoon, her family started looking for her and reported the matter to police.

It was Diwali day and there was neither any sign of Vandhana nor any word on her possible whereabouts.

From that day in 2002, the Jeet family in Madhuvani has not celebrated Diwali although they have not held any final rites for Vandhana, who is still regarded as a missing person.

It was during investigations into the three sisters' disappearance when the police also looked into the disappearance of Vandhana.

The man serving a life sentence after confessing to killing the three sisters was also questioned by the police then in connection with Vandhana's case.

But the police were unable to extract any solid information from him to locate Vandhana or determine what actually happened to her.

While many people still talk about the disappearance of the three sisters, what happened to Vandhana also lingers in many minds.

Ms Kuar has been making trips to either the Rakiraki Police Station or police headquarters in Suva every now and then to inquire about her daughter's case.

"I will not give up searching for my daughter. I believe she's alive somewhere and I want to find her," she said.

"There is so much talk on human trafficking and my daughter could have become a victim too, as such things are happening in the world and Fiji is no exception.

"We have had cases of human trafficking in Fiji, even a domestic one recently, and there is a possibility of it happening from a long time.

"I have run around to the police a lot and now I want the government to listen to this mother's cries and help find my daughter," said Ms Kuar.

She has ruled out the possibility of Vandhana eloping with someone, as allegedly suggested to her by some police officers when she reported her missing in 2002.

"If she had eloped with someone, then she would have contacted us at one time or another and apologised for her mistake.

"But she didn't elope with anyone. I feel and believe that something else happened with her and that she's still alive," said Ms Kuar.

Although the police file on Vandhana's disappearance is still open, the one thing that investigators are waiting for to make a breakthrough is solid information or leads.

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