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Dad's cry for justice

Litia Vulaidausiga
Friday, August 22, 2014

THE family of a robbery suspect who died in hospital after his arrest is demanding answers from the Fiji Police Force, which has found itself at the centre of brutality allegations.

Vilikesa Ratu Soko, manager of the Saioni Rugby Club, was among suspects taken in by police last weekend in connection with the $50,000 daylight robbery at the City Forex Nadi branch.

Police said the 30-year-old father of three died at 7.30pm on Wednesday at the Lautoka Hospital's intensive care unit.

His grieving family is not convinced by police claims he was not beaten.

Commissioner of Police Ben Groenewald said the deceased was known to be sickly, had refused to take medication during his stay at the hospital and had internal bleeding.

His father, Jeremaia Soko, said his son was not sickly but had visible injuries to his body.

"This is the greatest tragedy of my life," a tearful Mr Soko said outside the mortuary yesterday.

He said it was after 9pm on Sunday when he received a phone call from the brother of another suspect who was hospitalised.

"I came down on Tuesday to see him. I still had hope. He is my fourth son, named after my father and we were close. My wife is a stroke patient and I had to leave her behind to tend to our son. He was only 30 and this is shocking."

Relatives of the deceased gathered at the hospital with his wife. Their daughters, aged seven, five and three, remained in Suva.

"We don't know what to tell his children, they have been asking for him. They are all girls and were close their father. He was in Lautoka to look for work," he added.

A statement from police confirmed the death and said a senior officer had been tasked by the Police Commissioner to investigate the matter.

A relative said they relied on the sympathy of medical staff to visit Vilikesa earlier in the week, claiming police barred visitations to the suspects in hospital.

Relatives said injuries included major swelling and bruises to the body and eyes.

They claimed that despite being on life support and drifting in and out of consciousness, Vilikesa was handcuffed to his bedside table.

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