The man who has been detained for the alleged rape and murder of the 6-year-old girl in Etas has pleaded guilty in Court yesterday.
Daily Post witnessed the emotional moment when the victim’s parents and grandparents burst into tears as Bob Robert confessed that he assaulted the victim with the premeditated intention of causing her death on the night of April 18, 2018, after he raped her.
Robert admitted two counts of attempted unlawful entry of a dwelling house contrary to section 143 (1), one count of abduction contrary to section 92 (a) of the Penal Code Act [CAP 135].
He also admitted two counts of aggravated sexual intercourse with a child under 15 against section 97 (A) (2) (a) and an additional count of intentional homicide contrary of section 106 (1) (b).
He will be sentenced on February 15, 2019.
The victim’s relatives had been waiting for seven months to hear an answer and after many adjournments, Robert finally admitted the crime he committed on April 18 this year near their home at Etas and left her body there, where she was discovered by other relatives in the morning.
After he pleaded guilty to all counts, Justice Wiltens asked Robert if he understood the charges; Robert stood up again and told the court that he accepted the prosecution’s version of the offence.
Robert is from Tanna and was on parole on other sexual related offences when he re-offended. He was recalled back to the high-risk facility after the death of the victim.
The breakthrough came in what officials were calling a serial murder case which stirred outrage across the country.
The 6-year-old child was assaulted and her body thrown in a secluded area near Etas home hours before dawn.
Affidavits presented before the court revealed that sexual intercourse was carried out in circumstances of aggravation being that he did maliciously inflict actual bodily harm on the victim at the time or immediately after the commission of the offence.
Earlier at the proceeding yesterday, Kylie Karu who represented Robert sought another adjournment to be able to complete taking instructions. She told the court that neither her nor her client fully understand the DNA test results and have been promised a statement explaining the matter from the Fijian pathologist who performed the autopsy on the victim’s body.
Ms Karu said an email has been sent to the pathologist to explain his report in simple terms , however as of yesterday there was no response from the pathologist.
She said that the report itself is complicated and unable them to obtain any instruction whether they will plead guilty or not.
The court opposed the adjournment and Justice Wiltens said that analysis had been received some two months ago and fully explained to her and granted a 10-minute adjournment.
Katrina Makenzie from the prosecution office told the court that the DNA is very simple and understandable and told the court that Robert should go for plea yesterday.
She said a number the DNA reports claimed that a number of evidences came from the same profile — Robert.
She mentioned the victim’s family had attended every single appearance to date and were anxious to know how the case was progressing.
Justice Wiltens told Robert and his lawyer that they don’t need the DNA report to take the plea but to tell the truth whether or not he committed the offence.
He said that if Robert did not commit the offence then he should enter a no guilty plea.
The information was then put to Robert who stood up and admitted he abducted, raped and intentionally kill the seven-year-old Tanna girl.
Justice Wiltens ordered the prosecution to file and serve their sentencing submissions no later than December 14, 2018 while defense submissions by 4pm on January 24, 2018.
A pre-sentence report is required but the judge ordered the Probation Service not to go any near the family of the victim as per their express wish – the police will provide a Victim Impact Assessment from family members for court assistance.
Justice Wiltens then ordered his removal from the court by the Correctional Officers to be separated from the victim’s family.
Ms Karu later sought to withdraw as the defense counsel as her instruction taken previously was that Robert would plead not guilty.
“I did grant the leave to withdraw,” Justice Wiltens said.
“That may well have left Robert in a position of being unrepresented and I ask to take new instructions and to see if she could continue to act at the sentencing”.
Outside the court the victim’s relatives told Daily Post; “Robert has confessed to his crimes, his DNA matched with samples collected from crime scenes.”
The relatives are now appealing for a harsh penalty.
They also expressed satisfaction with the investigation and the prosecuting counsels’ who have given much to bring justice over the tragic loss of their loved one.
A relative of the victim who requested anonymity said if the law permits and the court allows, the murderer should be punished publicly.