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19-year-old girl, sole witness to murder of a family of five, testifies before trial court

Lalzemawii was working as a domestic help at the home of Sangliansiama when the murders that stunned Mizoram.

Written by Adam Halliday | Aizawl |
Updated: August 21, 2015 8:33:13 pm

A 19-year-old girl, who became the only person to have seen and survived the January 9 murders of five members of a family, including a kindergarten student, testified before a packed trial court in Aizawl on Friday.

Lalzemawii was working as a domestic help at the home of Sangliansiama when the murders that stunned Mizoram, which has one of the lowest murder rates in the country (less than two score murders take place in the state on an average each year), were committed.

The 19-year-old told the court on Friday the accused Laltlanchhuaha, a father of two, came to their home around 7.30 pm that winter’s night with a black rucksack police have said he carried a knife, the alleged murder weapon, in and asked for Sangliansiama.

“I was cleaning the floor at the time,” she said, adding the accused stood in the kitchen with his helmet on and had a hand inside the bag. Pi Khualthangi, Sangliansiam’s wife, was also in the kitchen at the time, she says, saying they told the accused the head of the family was in bed.

He came out soon afterward and the accused asked him why he slept so early, and that he replied he was feeling cold. The duo then sat on a chair and the accused took out some kind of catalogue and appeared to try to sell him something, the witness said, adding she said Sangliansiama told him he did not have money.

She and Khualthangi were called into the bedroom by another woman named Vanlalchhungi, Sangliansiama’s sister, to watch a news report about a local murder police had cracked earlier that day.

They were watching the program when they heard a loud sound. Lalzemawii immediately ran out to the kitchen followed by the two middle-aged women. “I saw Laltlanchhuaha pulling out a knife that had gone into my master’s right side, near the abdomen. My master fell to the floor. I kicked Laltlanchhuaha and he stumbled. I turned my attention to my fallen master, but Laltlanchhuaha charged at me with the knife. I pushed the kitchen table against him and I ran into an adjoining bathroom and locked it from inside,” she said.

“From there I heard the groans of the two women. I then heard Isaac (Sangliansiam’s six-year-old son) calling ‘Father, father!’ and then he fell silent. Then I heard Samuel (the family’s teenaged relative who was staying with them at the time) saying ‘What? What is it?’ and he also became silent,” she continued.

“The scuffle subsided after that, and the accused tried to open the bathroom door but he could not. A little later I opened the door slightly to take a peek, and I saw him pacing about the room,” she said.

She then heard commotion from the street below and she put on her cellphone light and waved it from the bathroom’s ventilation to hear someone exclaiming, “There’s someone still alive!”

A few minutes later, she said, some people came to get her from her hiding place and she was taken to the neighbour’s.

Laltlanchhuaha, 37, is accused of killing the five members of the family and has been charged with their murders. Police and hundreds of locals had a stand-off for several hours afterward as a mob demanded he be handed over to them.

Soon after his arrest, Laltlanchhuaha told a judicial magistrate he committed the murders in a fit of rage because Sangliansiama owed him money for his work as a carpenter in the house. Relatives and neighbours have said he did not work at their house. Laltlanchhuaha has subsequently denied before the trial court that he committed the murders.

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