The Missing Lata Sisters
Fiji Sun Explores the case of the
your special feature today
mysterious disappearance of the 3 sisters and the accused, Dip Chand
The boat was found drifting with visible signs of blood on the boat and the explanation offered by Chand was that they were set upon by unknown persons who approached his boat in a red boat and abducted the three girls.
DIP CHAND AND THE LATA SISTERS It is a case that was probably never heard of in Fiji until 2005. People had gone missing before and some were later found to be with their loved ones. But in this particular case, three teen sisters living in the same house went missing during a fishing trip and picnic, and have never returned home. They were reportedly murdered by the person they went with but neither their bodies nor any parts have been found to date. The man they went with is serving a life sentence in prison for their murders Dip Chand is a well-known name to those who are familiar with the case of the missing sisters – Ashika Sherin Lata, 19, Renuka Rohini Lata, 18, and Radhika Roshni Lata, 17. Today, the Fiji Sun takes a look back through court documents on the case of the missing sisters and Dip Chand.
Dip Chand is a name that has to come up whenever there are any discussions about the three missing sisters of Naria in Rakiraki.
The reason is because he is serving a life sentence for their murders, with a minimum term of 19 years imprisonment.
It was June 26, 2005 when he took the sisters and is believed to have murdered them on the same day. He was sentenced by the High Court in Lautoka on May 19, 2006 after being unanimously found guilty by the three assessors and the trial Judge.
After being sentenced, Chand filed an appeal against his conviction and sentence in the Court of Appeal, which on October 19, 2010 affirmed the sentence imposed on him by the High Court.
He then made an application in the Supreme Court of Fiji for special leave to appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal, but it was refused.
The application was heard by the Judges of the Supreme Court – Justice Saleem Marsoof, Justice Sathyaa Hettige and Justice Sriskandarajah Sundaram who delivered
their judgment on May 8, 2012. In their judgment, they said the petitioner (Chand) was charged on three counts of murder contrary to Sections 199 and 200 of the Penal Code, Chapter 17, of three sisters, Ashika Sherin Lata, Renuka Rohini Lata and Radhika Roshni Lata, who were respectively 19, 18, and 17 years of age when they were murdered by the petitioner.
It is common ground that the three young ladies were taken from their home in the western end of Viti Levu by the petitioner whom they called “aaja” (grandfather) in his boat towards the nearby Malake Island on a fishing trip and picnic.
The following day, the boat was found drifting with visible signs of blood on the boat. The explanation offered by Chand was that they were set upon by unknown persons who approached his boat in a red boat and abducted the three girls after beating him and rendering him unconscious.
An extensive search carried out at sea in the vicinity of Malake Island for a number of days proved futile and the bodies of the three sisters were never found.
In the course of his Police caution interview on July 4, 2005, Chand confessed that he killed the three sisters, hitting each one of them repeatedly on the head with a stick he used to kill fish after a frenzy over an argument he had with Ashika.
He substantively repeated this position while responding to the three charges that were read out to him by Police on July 6, 2005.
Voir dire (trial within the trial)
This was held at the High Court in Lautoka from May 1 to 8, 2006, during which the State called eight witnesses while Chand made an unsworn statement.
The trial Judge delivered his ruling on May 10, holding that Chand’s confession was made voluntarily.
The trial proper
Chand was tried before three assessors from May 10 to May 18, with 17 prosecution and three defence witnesses testifying.
At the end of the trial, the three assessors unanimously found Chand guilty as charged and he was convicted and sentenced.
Application to Adduce Fresh Evidence
Chand filed a fresh application on November 2, 2011 for special leave to appeal, which contained 13 grounds of appeal, with ground one being directly relevant to the motion for permission to adduce fresh evidence.
It said the trial miscarried since the Police and/or the prosecution did not disclose to the defence Chand’s medical card kept by Natabua prison and details of his medical examination at the Lautoka Hospital on July 14, 2005 despite consenting to the tender of Chand’s x-ray report dated July 14 during the trial.
Four affidavits were filed by Chand in support of the motion to produce the medical card containing certain notes pertaining to his medical condition within the period July 8 to August 13, 2005 as fresh evidence.
There were two affidavits sworn by Chand on November 3 and November 21, 2011, and by Inoke Takiveikata, who was the medical orderly attached to Natabua Prison at that time, and Dr Akhtar Ali, who was the principal medical officer at Lautoka Hospital who had examined Chand on July 14 and July 29 while he was in custody.
NEXT WEEK Dip Chand’s Medical Report