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7 January 2022

Fiji murder trial: Accused tried to bring dead family to NZ

Monday 10 January 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Fiji, Regional

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Fiji murder trial: Accused tried to bring dead family to NZ
Muhammed Raheesh Isoof. Photo: Supplied

The High Court in Fiji was told a former New Zealand resident charged with multiple murders had planned to bring his victims to Aotearoa.

Mohammed Isoof is on trial for allegedly killing five people including two children in the Nausori Highlands in August 2019.

Police investigator Anil Kumar told the court last week that Mr Isoof had promised the family he would take them to New Zealand to live on one of his five properties.

Sergeant Kumar testified that this information was given to him by close family members of the deceased.

Kumar said he had established during his investigation that the accused did not own any property in New Zealand and was instead renting.

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.. Photo: Supplied

Isoof has denied all the charges.

Kumar, with 32 years' experience in Fiji's Police Force, said he also found out that Isoof had secured a top-up loan of NZ$7900 in July 2019 which he converted to F$10,000 at a money exchange outlet.

He said Isoof arrived in Fiji on 8 August, 2019, and was due to return to New Zealand on 29 August.

Kumar said he did a background check on Isoof and he established that the accused had joined the police special constabulary, worked as a security guard, went to Australia and was deported from there, and had changed his name on the deed poll from Yusuf to Isoof.

Kumar said more than 50 police officers from various units were involved in the case which began on August 26, 2019, the day the bodies of Nirmal Kumar, 63, his wife Usha Devi, 54, their daughter Nileshni Kajal, 34, and her daughters Sanah Singh, 11 and Samarah Singh, 8, were discovered in the highlands.

Kumar shed tears when he told the court about the 11-month-old girl who was found alive at the scene.

He said it was a miracle she survived because "any wrong turn", she would have ended up 150 metres at the bottom of a cliff.

Kumar told the court that a person of interest was brought to the Namaka Police Station on the same evening with the mobile phone and the driver's licence of one of the deceased persons, Nirmal Kumar. The items were found inside the rental car the person of interest was driving.

Kumar said police also could not recover the substantial amount of jewellery of the deceased, Usha Devi, and her daughter, Kajal, from their home.

Kumar said 99 statements were recorded and 197 exhibits were tendered to prosecutors for the case.

In cross-examination, defence lawyeer Iqbal Khan asked Kumar if he made his summary report from exhibits and reports tendered to him, to which Kumar said he did a summary of the case based on what was obtained from the investigations.

Khan also asked the witness if he recalled a statement of a Howard Politini who had told police that he saw two vehicles parked at the 'S' bend in the highlands between 7pm and 8pm of the day in question. Kumar said the bend was further away from the scene.

Police investigators in the Nausori Highlands following the deaths of  five members of the same family.
Police investigators in the Nausori Highlands following the deaths of five members of the same family. Photo: Facebook/ Fiji Police

Khan asked Kumar why he had not taken into consideration footage and pictures provided to him by some witnesses and the officer said some of the footage were taken 10km away from the crime scene.

Kumar was also asked if he made any attempt to locate the DNA of unidentified individuals found in some of the items.

Kumar said it could have been of the cashier or the packer from the supermarket and the only person at the scene was the accused.

The prosecution also made a submission for a site visit of the crime scene, telling Justice Thushara Rajasinghe the exercise would give a better understanding and view of the terrain.

But, the defence objected to the site visit saying the place would have changed after two years.

However, the prosecution argued the only purpose would be to show the location and where the bodies were found.

A ruling is yet to be made on the State's submission.

The trial continues.