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The murder which shocked the nation

Avinesh Gopal
Tuesday, August 19, 2014

IT was a murder that shocked the nation almost three decades ago.

The victim was an American man, who had started a hotel business in the country a few years before his death.

After an extensive investigation, seven people were charged by the police in connection with the hotelier's murder.

But one of them became a prosecution witness while the others were found guilty after their trial and sentenced to life imprisonment.

However, the police did not find things easy during their investigations into the murder because some issues on the side had also come to light.

With new information relating to the investigations then, The Fiji Times takes a look again at the investigation into the murder of Bob Amos.

Today, we bring to you an exclusive interview with the man who headed the investigations into the murder.

He was the director of the Fiji Police Force's Criminal Investigations Department then and he retired on medical grounds a few years after solving the case.

BOB Amos was sleeping in his hotel room when some people pounced on him.

It was the night of June 3, 1985 and the attack on the owner of the Kings Hotel at Samabula in Suva was with the intention to kill him.

The hotelier was killed in his hotel room and his body was transported in his van to the Royal Suva Yacht Club, where the vehicle was left parked.

On the night of June 5, a security guard at the yacht club was doing his rounds when he checked the vehicle and discovered Amos' body.

Jimi Koroi, who was the director of the Criminal Investigations Department at that time, was informed about the discovery within minutes.

Mr Koroi, now 70 years old, took a team of police officers to the yacht club and immediately started investigations into the murder.

He said the van was parked at the yacht club from Monday (June 3) and no one bothered because Amos had a yacht and he was a member of the club.

"We had some implications that the murder took place at the Kings Hotel. And when we started investigations, there were a few under flips," he said.

"These under flips were information and suspicion on other things that had happened on the side as far as the murder was concerned.

"The first flip was when I sent a senior officer and another officer to the Kings Hotel to check if there were blood stains in the room and on the walls of the stairway.

"When they came back, the senior officer told me there were no blood stains. I asked him if he had checked properly and he said yes.

"I then told him that the other police officer who had accompanied him stated that there were blood splashes on the wall next to the stairway. I considered that as a major flip."

Mr Koroi said the senior police officer was sacked from the investigating team.

He said there were five teams of police detectives, numbering about 26, involved in the investigations.

"The other major flip was when a senior police officer had a party at his home a few days after the murder and other senior officers and prominent people were invited.

"We later found out that it was organised by the murdered victim's wife and the hotel manager.

"I told my deputy then Waisale Tuiketei to open up the Police Enquiry Paper (PEP) to review all the flips that were coming on the side."

Mr Koroi said he then approached the then Deputy Commissioner of Police Mosese Tuisawau to send the senior police officer on leave.

"The PEP found out that the senior officer at whose home the party was held and the very senior officer were related.

"But the very senior officer didn't attend the party.

"However, another prominent person at that time attended the party but he didn't know what it was for.

"The party was held at the senior police officer's house at Delainavesi in Lami on the fourth or fifth day after the murder.

"Four murder suspects were at the senior police officer's house drinking Whisky and they didn't have the slightest idea that they were being watched by police detectives.

"We gathered information and observed some people every day, leading up to the arrest of the seven suspects, including one who later testified for the State."

Mr Koroi said the senior police officers and the other prominent person were also interrogated by police detectives investigating the case.

He said it was either the eighth or ninth day after the murder when the police received information that Josua Ralulu (now deceased) was involved in the murder.

He instructed Salik Ram, a senior crime officer in Lautoka then, to take Ralulu in for questioning in connection with the murder.

"About two hours later, Salik called and told me that there was a full confession from Ralulu on the murder of Mr Amos.

"I then told him to round up the other suspects. Apart from Ralulu, two others were arrested in Tavua and one in Sigatoka.

"On the fourth day after these arrests, we brought in Mr Amos' wife and the hotel manager for questioning in connection with their involvement in the murder.

"The woman fully denied everything but there was evidence to charge her.

"The hotel manager denied and started admitting after about two hours.

"Seven people were charged in connection with the millionaire businessman's murder but one was given immunity by the Director of Public Prosecutions on my recommendation."

Mr Koroi said investigations also revealed that attempts had been made earlier to kill Mr Amos but it went wrong.

He said one of the suspects who dumped Amos' body at the yacht club took out the hotelier's singlet and a ring from his finger.

"The suspect threw the singlet just opposite Suva Prison and he kept the ring. A police patrol car crew met him at Walu Bay on the night of June 3 and asked him what he was doing there.

"He told the police officers that he lived with his brother in Samabula and he was trying to reach home. The police officers took him to Samabula.

"When the police officers checked, the person living at that place confirmed that the person was his brother, so that was it.

"The ring was later recovered from the suspect's brother."

Mr Koroi said the most challenging moment during the investigations was when minor flips were turning into major flips.

He also later told the senior police officer whom he sacked from the investigation team to retire from the police force.

"It was a very successful case because of the proper utilisation of intelligence resources.

"The police detectives working on the case had certain people under surveillance full-time."

The six people jailed for life were Amos' wife Prakash Wati, hotel manager Bijendra Rao, Ralulu, Jainendra Prasad, Jagdish Prasad and Jitendra Kumar.

While Ralulu died after being mowed down by a vehicle in Lami a few years ago, the whereabouts of the others are unknown although they are known to have completed their prison sentences.

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