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Lone survivor of murders found amid crawling ants – Fiji court hears

Tuesday 21 December 2021 | Written by RNZ | Published in Fiji, Regional


Lone survivor of murders found amid crawling ants – Fiji court hears
Photo: Supplied

Warning: this article contains content that may be distressing.

An 11-month-old girl found at the scene where five people lay dead in Fiji's highlands was covered in vomit and crawling ants as she cried lying over her dead grandmother's chest - just a metre from a cliff, a court was told.

The witness statements were made during the trial of a former New Zealand resident, who is accused of murdering a family of five at the Nausori Highlands, Nadi, in August 2019.

Muhammed Raheesh Isoof, 63, worked as a bus driver in Aotearoa before moving to live in Fiji at Legalega, Nadi.

He is charged with the deaths of Nirmal Kumar, 63, his wife Usha Devi, 54, their daughter Nileshni Kajal, and her two children Sanah, 11, and Samarah, eight.

Isoof is also charged with the attempted murder of 'miracle baby' 11-month-old Samaira Kumar who was found abandoned at the scene.

Isoof has pleaded not guilty to the charges. The State is calling 64 witnesses in the trial which resumed in the High Court in Lautoka last week before Justice Thushara Rajasinghe.

The State's first witness, farmer Setareki Nagala, said that on 26 August 2019 at around 9am, he was looking for his horse along the main road and while returning home with his horse, he saw 'things lying on the ground' at Nausori Highlands.

Nagala said he shout-ed 'oye' and the baby looked up at him. He added the child was leaning on the chest of the elderly woman.

"I did not go further down because I was afraid because I saw the bodies on the ground," Nagala said.

"I heard a truck on the other side and ran to the main road to stop the truck and inform the driver about the bodies lying at the rocky slope.

"While going up to the main road, I smelled perfume and when I looked over, I saw another female's body lying on the ground at a different spot from the other four bodies," Nagala told the court.

Muhammed Raheesh Isoof.
Muhammed Raheesh Isoof. Photo: Supplied

The truck driver also testified that Samaira Kumar was found covered in vomit, with ants crawling around her as she cried lying over the dead woman's chest, a metre from a cliff.

The truck driver Javed, who picked up Samaira, said the child looked dirty as ants crawled over her and over the four deceased bodies lying on the rocky slope.

Nagala also testified that he had in-formed Javed to hand the child to him and go up to the main road where the truck was parked and call the police.

Nagala said while waiting for the police, some nurses from Health Ministry ar-rived and he and Javed informed them of the bodies found.

In cross-examination, defence counsel Iqbal Khan questioned Nagala on whether he had given any statements to the police to which Nagala said that he did and it was at the crime scene on the day of the incident.

Khan then questioned Nagala as to why he did not include 'ants crawling and saliva coming out of the deceased's mouth' in his police statement.

Nagala responded that his mind was running around and he was in shock to wit-ness such an incident and did not inform the police.

When questioned why he did not mention to the police the perfume smell, Nagala remained quiet.

The trial continues.

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