The primary basis for the original conviction and the recent rejection of the appeal is a confession made by Dip Chand to the police. The supreme court judges also referred to some circumstantial evidence but the print media did not provide details of this. Some DNA evidence implicated him to the crime but how rigorously this evidence was examined is not clear.
My main concern is our police and the way in which confessions are obtained, and then used in our courts to convict people.
Fiji Police evidence based on confession by the person charged needs to be taken by a very large handful of salt. In Dilip Chand’s case, he alleged being beaten up and this is not an unusual practice by the Fiji police. There was some medical evidence to show that he was indeed roughed up but the learned judges refused to accept this evidence because Chand had not raised this matter at the earlier hearing.
In the July 2001 brutal murder of John Scott the CEO of Fiji Red Cross, the police manage to find someone who ‘confessed’ to the crime, a few days after the event! It was later discovered that the real killer was someone else altogether. Sadly, the details of the first confession and how it was obtained was never brought to light in the media in Fiji.
Again in May 2007, two young men were given life sentence for murdering 17 year Navneet Kumar, van driver of Korovou in Tailevu in April 2005. For 7 years Rupeni Naisoro and Senivalati Ramuwai languished in goal while the real killer, another young man went about his daily affairs unmindful of the fact that he brutally killed a person, and was responsible for two other lives being seriously disrupted with imprisonment. Thankfully he turned to his pastor and eventually confessed to what he had done.
The police obtained confessions from Naisoro and Ramuwai having beaten another van driver, Maope Kadavu who implicated them.
In Dip Chand’s case the bodies of the three sisters were never found. It was alleged that he beat them to their deaths with a stick he was carrying. It is unclear how he disposed of the bodies.
From what I know of Dip Chand is that he was looked upon as the village idiot and like the burning of old women at the stakes in the past for being witches, he was easy to pick on with his inability to put a coherent argument in his own defence. My very deep concern is that gross injustice may have been done in this case. And that the real killer or killers have got away scot free.
It is also not clear if Dip Chand’s mental capabilities were ever taken into account, meaning whether he was prone to rage and violent behavior or if he was mentally sound in the first place.
Rumour at that time had it that the girls may have been abducted and carried away in a yacht –and that it might be a case of people smuggling, and that some big names were involved in the case. It is not clear if this angle of the case was investigated in any meaningful way. Perhaps it was well beyond the capacity of our police!
A number of law schools in the USA have acquired a name for themselves for investigating wrongful convictions, the Dip Chand case will be a worthwhile project for law students at the University of the South Pacific.
As this piece can be deemed to be ‘in contempt’ of the court and defaming our police, I’d like you to keep it anonymous.