"I CANNOT pretend, but say that what you did to your wife, daughter, father-in-law and Mr and Mrs Ali on 15 October, 2015, when you burnt them to death was the height of all evil."
This was the comment made by High Court Judge Justice Salesi Temo while sentencing taxidriver Binesh Prasad, 35, to life imprisonment at the High Court in Suva yesterday.
Prasad was convicted of five counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, one count of arson and one count of damaging property.
He caused the deaths of his father-in-law Jei Narayan, 55, his daughter Prisika Devi, 10, his wife Uleshni Iren Lata, 29, and tenants Imran Ershad Ali, 30 and Faria Farnaaz Ali, 22, before setting fire to his mother-in-law Hans Wati's house and also damaging a taxi valued at $18,500.
He has to serve a minimum of 28 years before a pardon can be considered by the President.
During the time of the offence, Prasad was living with his wife and daughter at his in-laws place at Navosai in Narere.
The flats which were divided into three were owned by Ms Wati. Mr and Mrs Ali were one of the tenants in the flats.
The court was told the problem in this case began as a result of disagreements between Prasad and his wife.
It reached a stage when his wife and her family obtained a domestic violence restraining order against the accused, which forbade him to live with them at the said address.
He was also ordered not to contact his family and in-laws, which made Prasad angry and upset.
This, the court heard, was the catalyst of what led to the events of October 15, 2015.
On the said date, Prasad bought three 20-litre plastic containers from Rakiraki and filled it with unleaded fuel from Mobil Service Station in Korovou.About 11.30pm on that fateful day, he approached his in-laws' place, poured the unleaded fuel around the house before he called his wife.
When she opened the door, Prasad threw the fuel on her and set her alight which then spread rapidly in the house causing the death of Ms Lata, Prisika, Mr Narayan and Mr and Mrs Ali.
In his sentence, Justice Temo told Prasad that he had no right whatsoever to take away a person's life.
"That right only belongs to the Almighty," he said.
"A lot of murders in this country arose because of the turmoil in most families. You should have resolved your problems through the courts, but you chose to go outside the law. You burnt your mother-in-law's house and killed five people in the same, when you burnt them to death. You should not complain about your sentence, because they are to atone for your misdeeds.
"The sentence is to punish you in a manner that is just in all the circumstances, to protect the community from people like you, to deter would-be offenders by passing a deterrent sentence and to signify that the court and community denounce what you did on 15 October, 2015," he added.
The families of the five victims crowded up inside and outside the High Court yesterday to finally see justice prevail.
Mrs Ali's parents were among the many who turned up to court. Jaimul and Samsad Ali lost their daughter and son-in-law in the fire and life has never been the same for the couple.
Mrs Jaimul Ali was inconsolable outside court, only wishing she could see her youngest child's face for the very last time.
"We always remember her every day and every night. We miss our daughter. It's a relief. We have always felt very bad after she died. It's true he's gone to jail, but she was our heart"
Mr Ali said his daughter was someone they could rely on for everything. "Our daughter and son-in-law were the best. Both were very nice people. Every time she comes she gives us money and buys us food. She was very happy with her husband," he said.
During an interview with this newspaper from Auckland, New Zealand, last night, an emotional Ms Wati, who lost her husband, daughter and granddaughter in the incident said life had never been easy for her.
"I am happy that the murderer has been given a life sentence which is justice to me, but I am still sad because my family is no longer here with me," she said.
"Life was very hard because there was no one in Fiji with me. I had nowhere to go. I struggled a lot after the incident and I am still trying to get over it even two years later."