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Body parts await DNA test results from Russia

Monday 4 July 2016 | Published in Regional

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FIJI – Police investigations are continuing in relation to the discovery of human body parts at Fiji’s Natadola Beach last week.

Police say it is too early to confirm whether the body parts are of a Russian couple who went missing from their farm in Mulomulo up the Nausori Highland Road in Nadi.

The couple have been reported missing since the 16th of last month.

Yuri Shipulin and his wife Natalia left home on Thursday, June 16, in their grey metallic Landcruiser with the distinctive registration “PILOT” and never returned home.

They were reported missing by their Russian business partner who also lives at the farm.

Police found the missing Landcruiser at Natadola beach two days later about 200 metres away from where body parts were later discovered. The vehicle’s keys were still in the ignition.

It is believed police also found clothing inside the vehicle which was said to be clothing the missing woman was last seen wearing.

The couple were spotted having drinks at Denarau Island resort after leaving their farm.

Earlier, police investigators said they could not rule out the possibility that the Russian couple could have left the country.

They had been looking at the likelihood the couple could have secretly boarded a yacht or may even have been in hiding somewhere.

However the woman’s passport was also found in their abandoned vehicle.

Their business partner, Andrew Luzanenko, who arrived in Fiji on January 16 this year, had earlier said he could not understand why the couple had left without talking to him or telling him where they were going.

He said their farming business took a nose dive after their property was ravaged by Cyclone Winston and the couple were becoming increasingly worried over their future prospects.

The couple, from Ryazan City, Russia, had been in the country for the past five years and had been running the farm for the past two years.

Until the results of DNA tests are known, there is no solid information to establish a link between the discovery of the human remains and the missing persons.

Chief of Intelligence and Investigations, ACP Luke Navela, said the DNA information is being sent to their Russian counterparts through Interpol.

The result will be compared to the DNA of the families of the missing Russian couple.

The search for the couple took a macabre twist this week when a pair of human feet, chopped off from the ankle, were found by a jet ski operation security officer about 200 metres from where the couple’s vehicle was found.

Security officer Alipate Harilevu is employed by Sea Breeze Water Sports at Natadola Beach where he looks after their jet skis for hire.

Harilevu had just finished his shift when he saw the heavy surf pounding onto an object on the water’s edge.

On his inspection, he found the pair of feet, wrapped in green netting, weighted with stones and tied together with fishing line.

The pair of feet reportedly belonged to a caucasian and had all the toes intact.

A jet ski operator has since told police of finding human on the beach earlier.

Gabriele Seru said he did not know that a washed up carcass wrapped in greenhouse netting was human until he heard about the severed feet.

“I was sitting on the beach just waiting for one of our guests when I saw it,” he said. “I went to look inside the netting and just saw intestines so I thought that it was the remains of a cow.

“But someone found a human foot and then that’s when I realised what I saw was human.”

Seru’s suspicions were confirmed when he found another foot in front of his jet ski tent.

“I was sitting on the beach and that’s when I noticed it and I knew from the moment I saw it that it was another body part.

“It was washed onto the beach and I saw the toe nails had nail polish on it so I assumed it was female.”

On the day the Russian couple went missing, nearly two weeks earlier, beach workers spotted the couple’s vehicle arriving sometime to the far end of the beach at around 5pm.

It returned a short while later and parked at the spot where it was found later by the police.

Later that evening, Rupeni Tokavou, a beach security officer, noticed the vehicle parked there around 7pm.

“The place was bright because of the moon,” he said. “We thought some people had come to party there, so we did not pay much attention.”

Later that night, as Tokavou and three other colleagues noticed a fire was lit near the vehicle.

“We saw a torch light later go near the water and return.”

At about 3am, a man, who looked caucasian walked past the security guards. They thought he was a guest at Yatule Resort, which is nearby.

“As he walked past us, he held a mobile phone up to his ear, partially covering his face and he had turned his head away from us,” Tokavou said.

“We saw he did not enter Yatule Resort but walked away towards the gravel road that led to the Natadola Road.”

On Friday morning, the morning shift of beach workers noticed the Landcruiser still parked at the same spot.

“I went over and checked and noticed the right back tyre was punctured, the keys still in the ignition, some lady’s clothes and a woman’s passport,” one of them said.

Police arrived later that afternoon and took the vehicle to the Nadi Police Station.

Police divers are to continue searching Natadola waters over the weekend as the results of the DNA tests are awaited. - PNC