The mysteries and tragedies of Naria
Vandhana Pritika Jeet has been missing since late October 2002.
THERE is a story or two or many associated to some areas in the country. While in some areas the stories may be good, in others it is mostly to do with bad or tragic things that have happened there.
Some areas are so famous for tragic incidents, in some cases every year or after a few months, that it is hard for people to forget their names. These incidents include
murder, murder-suicide, multiple suicides, picnic trips gone wrong and even the
disappearance of people, especially young girls. As part of a new series, The Fiji Times will take a look at some of these areas in the country which are renowned for
mysteries and tragedies. One such area which definitely is at the back of many
people’s mind is Naria in Rakiraki, which became a household name a decade ago.
Today, we take a look at some of the tragic and mysterious incidents
that have happened in the area, including the murder of three sisters whose bodies are yet to be found.
IT is a canefarming settlement situated along the western coast of Viti Levu.
From Rakiraki Town, it is about 10 minutes by road towards Suva and is home to hundreds of people, who are mostly dependent on the sugar industry.
Sitting right in front is Malake Island, beyond which are the Bligh Waters.
The sun setting behind the island gives an excellent sunset view either from the hills of Naria or from Malake landing.
But while there may be a beauty in the area itself, Naria is also associated with a lot of stories of murders and mysteries, some of which some people are still trying to solve.
Since time immemorial — from the Colonial days — a lot of murders are said to have happened in the canefarming area.
There was not much being said about the area until late June 2005 when three sisters from Naria disappeared while on a picnic trip with a man whom they knew.
About three years before their disappearance, an 18-year-old student also went missing from the road in front of the sisters’ house.
But for reasons not known, there was not much information available on the student’s disappearance in 2002 until the three sisters disappeared.
Going down memory lane, the three sisters left their home next to the Kings Rd in Naria for a picnic with a man whom they called “aaja” (grandfather) — Dip Chand, who is serving a life sentence for their murders.
They were — Ashika Sherin Lata, 19, a supermarket cashier; Renuka Roshni Lata, 18, a computer student, and Radhika Roshni Lata, 17, a Form Six student.
It was about 10.30am on June 26, 2005 (Sunday) when the girls left with Chand in his boat for a picnic on Malake Island, something which they had done before.
When the girls did not return home that afternoon and until the next morning, their parents reported the matter to police and their father went to look for them at sea.
The girls’ father saw Chand alone in the boat and when questioned, he told the worried father that some iTaukei men came in a boat and took the girls away.
On June 30, 2005, we reported that the disappearance of the girl in 2002 — Vandhana Pritika Jeet -— and that of the sisters could be linked.
It was reported then that Ashika was a crucial witness in Vandhana’s disappearance as she had given her statement to police on what happened.
Vandhana was reportedly last seen with Ashika on the road near the sisters’ house in Naria, as she had gone to their place to spend the night after attending a school carnival.
While police were still searching for the girls, they pinned Chand for raping three girls, one as young as 11 years old and charged him with 10 counts of rape.
Chand pleaded guilty and he was jailed for 20 years by the Rakiraki Magistrates Court on July 15, 2005 for 10 counts of rape.
His appeal against the rape conviction and sentence was upheld and the matter was referred back to the Rakiraki Magistrates Court for a retrial.
The Rakiraki Magistrates Court referred the case back to the High Court in Lautoka for a trial, however, the Director of Public Prosecutions Office filed a nolle prosequi and withdrew the rape charges.
He was also jailed for life by the High Court in Lautoka for the three sisters’ murders, which he confessed to, and his appeals against the conviction and sentence were quashed by the court.
But one thing unique in his case was the fact that Chand was charged and jailed for the murder of the sisters but their bodies have not been found so far.
While the case of the sisters’ disappearance has been dealt with by the court, the disappearance of Vandhana still remains a mystery.
Chand was also questioned in connection with Vandhana’s disappearance and he told police that he had killed and buried her on Malake Island.
He took police officers to the spot and after digging the area, some bones were found but they were later analysed to be that of an animal.
A few years after the sisters’ disappearance, there was also a case of some human remains being found in a sack in the sea.
The remains were of a young girl who had been murdered.
And in the most recent case that shocked the nation, a Year 10 student was hacked to death as she got off the bus at Naria about 3.30pm on September 9 after school to go home. Simran Singh’s father also suffered injuries when he went to rescue her from the attacker.
Police have charged a man in connection with the student’s murder and the case is pending in court.
In the meantime, the search for Vandhana is still continuing and her missing person’s file with police is still open.
She is on the INTERPOL list as a missing person. She would be about 30 years old now if still alive.
A few months ago, a girl with similar features to Vandhana was spotted in a nightclub in Suva and she was interviewed by police.
Vandhana’s family members also had the opportunity to see if there were any similarities between her and Vandhana when they last saw her. Police also did DNA tests of the woman from Australia and of Vandhana’s parents and sent the samples to Australia.
Vandhana’s parents Dharam Jeet and Phul Kuar of Madhuvani in Rakiraki are still desperately searching for their daughter. Although the DNA results are yet to be made available, they have accepted that the woman picked up from the nightclub in Suva was not Vandhana.
They are doing whatever is within their means to search for Vandhana, who they believe could have been a victim of human trafficking.
Ms Kuar said she would not rest in the search for Vandhana until her last breath.
“We believe that Dip Chand could have some answers on the whereabouts of Vandhana and only if he says something that he may know,” she said.
“I haven’t seen my daughter for almost 13 years and I’ll be forever grateful to anyone who gives us any information that could lead to Vandhana’s whereabouts. And while we are doing whatever we can to look for her, we also urge the Government to look into my daughter’s disappearance,” said Ms Kuar.
While these may not be all the tragedies and mysteries of Naria, many people term the area as “spooky” because of things that have happened there.
The place may be known for good things too but it did become quite famous after the disappearance of the three sisters, as it was the first such case as far as history goes.
And the sisters’ disappearance and that of Vandhana is still a much talked about topic during grog sessions or other gatherings in different parts of the country.
While the search for the sisters’ bodies stopped a few weeks after their disappearance, Vandhana’s vanishing file is still open for investigations.
The mysteries and tragedies of Naria can be and is being described by people in whatever way they think, as is often the case when something as such happens.
Source: Fiji Times 29/09/2015