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Family seeks answers over murder

Avinesh Gopal
Tuesday, September 02, 2014

IT would have been the first time for her to visit her family in two years after getting married.

Apart from visiting her parents and siblings, she had also planned to celebrate the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, with them after two years.

But little did Ashika Lata Macartney know that she would never see her parents, siblings and other relatives again, even after arriving in Fiji from Australia.

She arrived in the country on October 22, 2007, as she had told her parents, and she was said to have been murdered on the same day.

When Ashika did not arrive at her parents home on October 24 as told to them, a search was carried out for her and it was not until November 2 when her decomposed body was found in Deuba.

Her husband was charged with her murder and later sentenced to life imprisonment but he appealed against the conviction and sentence and was acquitted after serving about 18 months.

Last week, The Fiji Times took a look back at the life of Ashika, her love marriage and how eager she was to meet her family and relatives after two years.

As part two of the series on her murder, today we talk to her parents and siblings who say they are not at peace because "Ashika's killer seems to be still walking freely".

RAJENDRA Prasad and his family members were frustrated when I first met them recently to talk about his daughter's murder almost seven years ago.

They were not frustrated with me being there at their home but with the system as far as his daughter's murder and what followed afterwards were concerned.

It was after a few minutes of convincing that Mr Prasad and his family members agreed to talk to me about Ashika Lata Macartney's murder.

Going down memory lane, Ashika, 29, was working at an Asian shop in Suva City when she met Simon Macartney sometime in 2002.

They got acquainted and Macartney made a marriage proposal to Ashika, who told her parents about the man in her life and that he was very nice.

Her father left the marriage decision on Ashika, who later got engaged to Macartney and made few trips to Australia before legally marrying him on February 17, 2005.

Later that year, she left for Australia and she got her permanent residency status there in early October 2007.

She informed her parents about getting the permanent residency status and that she would come to Fiji on October 22.

Her parents and siblings were eagerly waiting to see her after two years and also celebrate Diwali with her, which was about 10 days or so away.

Ashika had told her parents that she would arrive home on October 24 after visiting a few places and then spend time with them.

But when she did not arrive at her home on the day she said she would, her parents and siblings became worried and they started looking for her.

Mr Prasad said calls to Macartney's mobile phone could not get through. He said Ashika had told them not to tell Macartney that she was coming but she herself had informed him.

On October 29, 2007, we reported that Ashika was picked from the Nadi International Airport by her husband on October 22.

In the same report, Macartney, who had been in Fiji since December 2006, had said that Ashika got off in Sigatoka after an argument, claiming that she wanted to see her boyfriend.

Macartney was questioned by police on a few occasions before Ashika's decomposed body was found in Deuba on November 2.

On November 6, we reported that Macartney had appeared in court charged with Ashika's murder but the Director of Public Prosecutions had moved to file a nolle prosequi.

And on November 7, we reported that Macartney was set free by the court after the DPP filed a nolle prosequi and withdrew the murder charge as there was insufficient evidence.

Macartney was charged again with murder and produced in court on November 12.

He was later found guilty by the High Court in Suva after a trial and sentenced to life imprisonment.

However, after serving about 18 months of his sentence, Macartney was acquitted on May 6, 2010 after he successfully appealed against his conviction and sentence in the Court of Appeal.

While the acquittal may have answered Macartney's prayers, Ashika's family is still seeking answers on her murder.

"If Simon has been acquitted by the court, then who killed Ashika?" asked Mr Prasad.

"Simon's acquittal means that Ashika's killer is still walking free, that's what we understand as Simon was acquitted of the murder charge.

"We are not at peace. If Simon had served his term in prison and was then released, we would have been at peace that Ashika's killer has been punished.

"But since he was acquitted after an appeal, it means that someone else killed Ashika and that person is still walking around freely."

Mr Prasad urged the police to look into Ashika's case again and ensure that whoever killed her is punished for the crime.

In a letter to various higher authorities on January 11, 2011, Mr Prasad raised serious issues regarding the case and said "we hope justice will prevail in the end".

But, he said no one from the five offices he wrote to had responded to his letter until today and no one even called him although he gave his mobile number.

Also, Mr Prasad said a substantial amount of Ashika's jewellery and other belongings that were kept as exhibits were not returned to the family after the case had been dealt with.

"We also ran around a lot to get the items back but so far there has been no luck and no one knows where the jewellery worth thousands of dollars and other exhibits have gone to," he said.

The Prasad family said Ashika's memories were still fresh in their minds but they were unhappy and not at peace that her killer was yet to be punished accordingly for the crime.

Mr Prasad said the family would never forget the day they held Ashika's funeral, which was an auspicious day in the Hindu calendar — Diwali.

He said the family believed that justice would prevail and the truth surrounding Ashika's murder would come out one day.

* NEXT WEEK: The police investigations into the murder.

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