MURDER AT KINGS
– The Bob Amos series continues
- He arrived in Fiji from the United States of America in 1971 as a retired military officer. - Robert Emerson Amos, who was commonly known as Bob Amos, married Prakash Wati in 1972 and he bought Kings Hotel in Nabua, Suva in May 1975. - Mr Amos was murdered between June 3 and 5, 1985 in his hotel and his body was found on June 6 in a van parked at the Royal Suva Yacht Club. - Six people, including Prakash Wati Amos, were sentenced to life imprisonment by the Supreme Court in Suva for his murder after a trial from March 3 to June 4, 1986. - Mrs Amos, Bijendra Rao, Jagdish Prasad, Janendra Prasad, Jitendra Kumar and Josua Ralulu appealed against their conviction and sentence but it was dismissed by the Fiji Court of Appeal on November 13, 1986. - Last week, the Fiji Sun took a look at the grounds of appeal filed by Mrs Amos, Rao, Jagdish, Janendra and Jitendra. - As Part 4 of the series on the Kings Hotel murder, today we take a look through court records at the case against Ralulu and his appeal.
The case against Josua Ralulu was that he was present on all four trips from Tavua to Suva and actually took part in the attack on Bob Amos which resulted in his death.
Ralulu was interviewed by the Police on June 13, 1985 and he frankly admitted his involvement in the killing, according to the Fiji Court of Appeal judgment on November 13, 1986.
He told Police of the four visits to Suva and how on the last occasion he and Janendra and Jitendra went to Rao’s room at Kings Hotel and from there to Mr Amos’ room. Ralulu described the attack that then took place, his participation, how the body was removed and his attempts to conceal signs of the attack by cutting blood stained patches from the mattress cover.
He did not challenge his interview statement in court and he gave evidence in his own defence at the trial and accepted that he had voluntarily given his statement to Police. He was not one of the original appellants and his application for leave to appeal was well out of time, being filed only five days before the appeal hearing
The court, however, gave him leave to argue his grounds of appeal.
Grounds of Appeal
Ralulu argued that the learned trial Judge erred in law when he misdirected the assessors on the question of the defence of compulsion.
He argued that the learned trial Judge erred in fact and in law when he failed to direct the assessors on the possible effect of liquor on his mind.
Also, he claimed that the learned trial Judge erred in law when he failed to direct on the issue of manslaughter in relation to him. On the issue of compulsion, Ralulu said in his evidence in chief that Janendra and Jitendra went into Mr Amos’ room from Rao’s room and began attacking him.
He said that he was frightened and intended to run away and take no part when he felt something sharp in his side.
Ralulu said he turned and saw that Jagdish was holding a knife against his side and threatened him by saying “look, if you are not going to do what I will tell you to do, if that man is not going to die, I will kill you”. Following that, Ralulu said he went into Mr Amos’ room and punched him as he was trying to rise from the bed and Janendra and Jitendra then succeeded in subduing him.
The trial Judge’s summing up
A detailed direction on Ralulu’s defence of compulsion was given to the assessors by the trial Judge, who pointed out the circumstances they may think relevant when considering the defence of compulsion. Ralulu made no mention of being threatened by Jagdish in his Police statement, that he was much bigger and stronger man than Jagdish and that he had ample opportunity to escape from his predicament earlier in the evening.
Defence of intoxication
Ralulu’s evidence was that on the fourth and final trip from Tavua to Suva which would have been on June 2, he drove a rental car with Jagdish, Jitendra and Janendra as passengers.
On the journey, six bottles of beer and half bottle of Rum were drunk, most of it by Ralulu and Jitendra.
They spent the night in Suva and in the course of the following day they drank another six bottles of beer and half bottle of Rum.
They went to the Kings Hotel sometime between 7 and 8pm and had some time to wait in Rao’s room before going to Mr Amos’ room. Ralulu said during that time he slept.
At no stage in his statement to the Police or in his evidence in chief did he claim that he did what he did because he was affected by liquor.
It was not until he was cross-examined by Rao’s lawyer that the issue of drunkenness arose.
The Fiji Court of Appeal judgment states that on more than one occasion Ralulu asserted that although he had been affected by liquor when he first went to the hotel, he was not so affected by the time of the alleged threat by Jagdish.
His consistent plea was that he became involved in the attack on Mr Amos solely because of the threat by Jagdish, not because of the effects of liquor.
Ralulu’s lawyer raised the defence of intoxication at the trial and the trial Judge directed the assessors upon it.
According to the Fiji Court of Appeal judgment, what the trial Judge did not tell the assessors was that a verdict of manslaughter would have been open against Ralulu if they were satisfied that he took part in the attack but were left in reasonable doubt whether he had the necessary intent because of his consumption of liquor.
“The direction given by the trial Judge was in fact more favourable than it should have been because the effect of his direction was that if the assessors were satisfied Ralulu took part but lacked intent through intoxication then he should be acquitted,” the judgment said.
“That aside, it is our opinion that the trial Judge would have been fully justified in refusing to put the defence of intoxication to the assessors.
“There was never any suggestion from Ralulu that he did what he did because of the effects of liquor, or that he did not know what he was doing because of its consumption,” the Fiji Court of Appeal said.
Ralulu’s appeal was also dismissed like the appeals by the other five appellants, who served their life sentences in prison before being released.
Kings Hotel on July 1985. INSET: Left, Bob Amos. Right, the van in which his body was dumped.