ON January 16, 2010, Kaminieli Rokotavaga Jr was digging at a neighbour’s home at Benai in Ba, making a new toilet. As he dug deeper, his spade struck something hard. He dug around and discovered a severed human body. That day, bodies of two Indian nationals were found in separate suitcases.
The crime was horrific. The Indian nationals, Ramkrishan Amirthanlingam and Rajamanickam Venkatachalam, had died as a result of severe blood loss because their necks had been cut using a sharp object.
A year and seven months later Ravinesh Padiyachi and Mohammed Nadim were found guilty of the murders of these two expatriate businessmen. Both were sentenced to life.
What happened that led these two men to commit such a crime?
The prosecution had proven its case by providing circumstantial and forensic evidence with that provided by witnesses that Padiyachi and Mohammed had committed the crime but no light was shed on why the two killed their employers.
The victims, Ramkrishan Amirthanlingam and Rajamanickam Venkatachalam, owned a scrap metal company and stayed at a house in Nakasi.
Padayachi, who was managing their business, stayed with his bosses in the same house. Mohammed was a labourer reporting to Padayachi. The house in Ba where the body was discovered belonged to Mohammed’s family and was vacant.
This is the evidence summed up by the High Court judge Justice Priyantha Fernando.
“The facts of this case were horrendous and disturbing.
“On December 13, 2009 the victims were drinking alcohol in the living room and the two accused were drinking grog in the porch at the back of the house. Thereafter in the night the two accused persons killed the two victims by slashing their necks.
“You packed the two bodies in two suitcases which were in the house.
“On December 15, you transported the two bodies packed in suitcases to Benai, Ba in the twin cab which belonged to the victims and buried the bodies packed in suitcases in the backyard of the house which belongs to Mohammed’s father.”
Padayachi told the witnesses Roshni and Ronish (co-employees at the scrap metal company), and then the police that the victims went to the West and that they were missing.
Later, on January 16, 2010 when a labourer was digging a toilet in the back garden of the second accused Mohammed’s house at Benai, Ba, the two suitcases packed with the two bodies were discovered.
Both Padiyachi and Mohammed chose not to give any evidence, which was their right.
In the evidence presented to the court, the two accused were seen at the house in Benai in Ba on December 15, 2009 in the white Toyota Hilux which belonged to the victims.
“That, the victims were seen last on December 13, 2009 evening at 33 Willow St, Nakasi with the two accused persons. That, on December 14, the first accused Padayachi had told that the victims had gone to the West,” Justice Fernando said in his judgment.
“That, on December 15, 2009 the two accused persons were seen at the residence of the second accused at Benai, Ba. At that time the house had been vacant. That, two witnesses have seen the accused persons and they have seen a pit dug in the backyard of the house.
“That, the vehicle Toyota Hilux belonged to the victims’ company had been parked there in the property at Benai, Ba. Front of the said vehicle had been facing the front of the property and the back tray had been facing the back side of the property.
“That, after the victims went missing the said vehicle was used by the first accused. The vehicle was later repossessed by the Merchant Finance Company. Although the first accused had told that the victims went to the West, the vehicle which was used by the victims had been there with the first accused.
“That, the bodies alleged to be of the victims, were found buried at the same second accused residence at Benai, Ba on the January 16, 2010. One of the bodies found was agreed to be of the victim Ramkrishan Amirthanlingam.”
Forensic Unit of the police found blood in the tray of the vehicle and blood spatters in the house where the murder happened. There were blood-like stains found at the victims’ house at Nakasi and some of them were tested positive to be blood.
After the victims went missing, witness Roshni Singh noticed a rug which used to be in the living room was missing. When she inquired from the first accused Padayachi, he had told her that Ram and Guna (the victim’s nickname) had vomited and that they washed the rug.
“Accused persons remained silent which is their right to do so. I bear in mind that the burden is on the prosecution to prove the charges beyond reasonable doubt and that the accused persons need not prove anything,” said Justice Fernando in his judgment.
“Upon careful consideration of all the circumstances in the light of my direction to the assessors it could inescapably be inferred that the first and second accused persons did commit the unlawful act to cause the death of the two deceased persons acting in joint enterprise.”
Padayachi and Mohammed were sentenced to life, however they had never said why they killed their employers.
Both men have appealed their conviction and sentence.
On the day the body was discovered, Rokotavaga Jr had told The Fiji Times that he had never seen anything so horrendous.
“I just went and started digging at this place, which I suspected was the old toilet pit,” he said.
“At one stage, I hit something hard. Upon checking, it was a suitcase.
“When I opened it, I saw a head of a man whom I knew straight away was an Indian.”
He said he had never seen something so scary in his life.
“I never dreamt that I would see something horrible like that, not with my naked eyes,” Rokotavaga Jr said.
Source : Fiji Times Online. 12/04/2016