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The sentencing of Bob Amos' killers

Avinesh Gopal
Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The murder of a businessman.

IT is almost three decades now since a foreigner operating a hotel business in the country was murdered.

The murder shocked the nation and the police launched an intensive investigation to hunt down his killer or killers in 1985.

His body was found at the back of his van which was parked near a yacht club outside Suva City for some time.

After thorough investigations, the police were able to arrest seven suspects and charge them for their alleged involvement in the killing.

Six people were given life sentences by the Supreme Court one year after the businessman was killed while the seventh suspect had become a State witness.

Last week, The Fiji Times brought to you an exclusive interview with a police officer who was part of the investigating team. He is a lawyer now.

As we wrap up the series today, we bring you some details of the case as revealed by the former police officer and the sentencing of the six suspects.

IT was the night of June 3, 1985 and Bob Amos was said to have been sleeping in his hotel room.

He was reportedly caught by surprise when some people entered his room and pounced on him.

The group of men assaulted and strangled him to death, and later dumped his body near the Royal Suva Yacht Club.

On June 5, 1986, we reported on the front page that six people were jailed for life by the Supreme Court for the murder of Mr Amos, the owner of Kings Hotel in Samabula, Suva.

Among those given a life sentence was Mr Amos' wife Prakash Wati. The others were the hotel's former manager Bijendra Rao, Josua Ralulu, Jainendra Prasad, Jagdish Prasad and Jitendra Kumar.

It was reported that the Supreme Court found that Mrs Amos and Mr Rao had conspired to murder Mr Amos, who was 65 years old then.

Naipote Vere, who was a part of the police team investigating the case, said he also went to a Catholic priest after something told him to do so.

Mr Vere claimed the priest told him a few things about the murder, some of which turned out to be true later on.

Jimi Koroi, who was the Director of Criminal Investigations Department then and heading the inquiry, said the police investigated the case for more than eight days before making arrests.

On June 7, 1985, we reported on the murder and also spoke to the security guard who discovered Mr Amos' body.

Akuila Tuisalia said he was on duty on Wednesday night (June 5) and doing the normal rounds when he found the body.

Mr Tuisalia said he found the windows of the white Mitsubishi van wound up but the front passenger side door was unlocked.

He opened the door and large flies swarmed over his face. He told this newspaper then that he saw a blond wig lying on the passenger seat.

Also, he said he then went and opened the back door of the van and found Mr Amos' body lying there, with his back sticking outwards.

The matter was then reported to the police and an intensive investigation was launched to find those responsible for the killing.

On the front page on June 8, 1985, we reported on Mrs Amos' relationship with her husband in the months leading up to his death.

It was reported on June 13 that the police had sought the help of INTERPOL and they were moving closer to the motives.

There was a stir in the community when we reported on June 15 that four men had been arrested by the police in Tavua in connection with the murder.

On June 16, we reported that Josua Ralulu Rabukawaqa, Jagdish Prasad, Jainendra Prasad, Jitendra Kumar and Manohar Prasad had been charged with Mr Amos' murder and produced in court.

Several people crowded outside the Suva Court buildings for the special court sitting on Saturday (June 15), with some reportedly hurling abuse at the suspects.

It was reported on June 17 that the police had arrested the sixth person in connection with the businessman's murder. He was the hotel manager Bijendra Rao.

Furthermore, it was also reported on the same day that the court heard that Mrs Amos was also questioned during the weekend and released only after she had signed a statement.

The police charged her later in June 1985 for her alleged involvement in killing her husband.

Mr Vere said information from the caution interviews of the suspects arrested in Tavua revealed that Mrs Amos and Mr Rao had conspired to kill Mr Amos.

In his judgment on the case on June 4, 1986, the Chief Justice Sir Timoci Tuivaga said he accepted a pathologist's evidence that Mr Amos, an American, was strangled to death.

"I also accept and find that Bob Amos was throttled to death with a ligature in his own room at the Kings Hotel on the night of June 3 last year as a result of a joint assault perpetrated on him by Jainendra, Jitendra and Ralulu," he had said.

"I have no doubt that in inflicting such a cowardly and cold-blooded assault upon the victim causing his death, each of these three accused did so with intent to kill or cause grievous harm."

Justice Sir Timoci had said that he accepted the evidence of the police officers and found nothing improper in the manner in which interviews of the six accused were conducted.

It was also reported on the same day's edition that Manohar Prasad, who was also charged by the police, was given immunity to testify for the Crown.

Justice Sir Timoci had said in his judgment that he found Manohar a credible and truthful witness.

He accepted Manohar's explanation of why he had failed to mention Mrs Amos' involvement to the police while giving his statement on June 14 and 15, and later on June 18.

"I also accept that his temporary lapse of recollection with regard to Mrs Amos' involvement was due to a large extent to the nature of the particular relationship he had at the time with Rao, from whom he had been taking all his instructions and orders over the various incriminatory activities in which they were both engaged and events leading to the death of Bob Amos and even afterwards.

"It is evident that only when his mental turmoil arising from his arrest subsided in due course of time that he fully came to realise the gap in the account he had given to police concerning Mrs Amos' involvement," Justice Sir Timoci had said in his judgment.

The hearing of the case was regarded as the trial of the year, with several people packing the courtroom during the trial and the sentencing.

Josua Ralulu served his life sentence and he died after being mowed down by a vehicle in Lami in July 2008. There is not much known about the whereabouts of the other five people who were jailed for life with him.

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