JUNIOR Pillai was a loser in life, so he created a fantasy world on the internet in which he had Bollywood good looks and was attractive to women.
His one talent was prising information out of the girls he met on social networking sites like Bebo and Hi5, which he would then use to manipulate and blackmail them. He targeted beautiful young Indian girls and convinced them to send through "naughty" photos of themselves in their underwear, which he would then threaten to show to their parents if they didn't give him money and sex. He knew how desperate they were to please their families.
None of the girls thought they were dealing with a fat man called Junior.
He had created multiple identities – he'd be Guarav, or Arayan, or Rahul or Nickil – and he would text the girls from different phones so they thought they were dealing with different people, playing one persona off against another.
One victim described to the Sunday Star-Times how his online picture – thin, light-skinned, spiky hair – lured her in.
"I found it quite flattering that such a good looking guy would actually think I'm beautiful. I opened up to him," she says.
Pillai would adopt different personas to suit his victim. If the girl was studying at university, he'd be a medical student. If she was from a wealthy family, he'd be from Christchurch or Queenstown, where he perceived "rich people" lived. Other times he'd be self-employed, or an immigration officer. The girls would invariably be shocked when they finally met him in person, one ringing one of his other personas to complain that the man she had just met was fat and ugly.
Detective Sergeant Brett Pakenham, of the police criminal profiling unit, says: "I have not come across an offender whose offending has been so convoluted in terms of the use of multiple identities and strategies. Pillai's offending grew more and more outlandish over time, with ever increasing sums of money being demanded, and an increasing number of identities and alleged third parties being introduced into the offences."
A clue to Pillai's behaviour lies in his childhood. Born in Fiji (the family name was originally spelled Pillay), the third of five siblings, he was sexually abused regularly by an adult male cousin when he was only 10. The man bought Pillai's silence with cash and said he would beat him if he talked.
The family moved to Auckland when he was 11. He attended Otahuhu College, and left after the sixth form. He worked menial jobs, as a delivery driver and for his father. At one point, he was kicked out of home for being lazy.
"I get angry with him because he's not working or earning money," his mother told police.
"Junior's weakness was all these girls – Junior told me lots of lies."
His sister told police: "Junior always tries to blackmail, every time Junior wants anything done, he will try in any way he can to make us do work for him."
In 2005, Pillai tried to kill himself by drinking paint remover when the parents of his then girlfriend disapproved of the relationship. Attempted suicide has been a recurrent theme through his adult life and he is under close watch in prison.
The Star-Times sat down with Pillai's father, mother and sister, who asked not to be named. The family has backed away from the earlier negative comments they made about Junior, now saying he is a "good boy".
"You ask anyone at church, they'll tell you how Junior is," his mother says. "At home he was a very nice person, he didn't drink, didn't smoke, nothing."
His sister could not understand how Junior could have offended against so many girls. "How can you blackmail 14, 15 girls at one time? It's not true."
The family says Junior would take girls up to his bedroom, and they would stay willingly. "Junior had a lot of girlfriends, he made mistakes, maybe five, not 10 or 15," the father says, tears streaming down his face.
The family accuses Detective Constable Maureen Glassey of pushing the girls into making complaints. "She listened to what the girls said, but not what Junior told her," the mother says.
The father says if he wins Lotto, he will appeal on his son's behalf. "If I had money, I could fight the case."
- Sunday Star Times
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