No confession of role in lover's death

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 14/11/2012
Shanal Sajesh Kumar
JONATHAN CAMERON/Fairfax NZ
NOT GUILTY PLEA: Fijian-Indian Shanal Sajesh Kumar, 29, denies he murdered his lover, Indian-born Dipti Patel, 42, in the garage of her New Plymouth home three years ago.

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A hard-hitting police interview with murder accused Shanal Kumar failed to get a confession that he was the man seen in the garage where his former lover died.

Two of Taranaki's most experienced detectives, Detective Sergeant Charlie Kawana and Detective Mike Thorne conducted the videoed interview two years ago with Kumar, 29, at the Takapuna police station.

They arrested and handcuffed Kumar on July 12, 2010 on the North Shore, charging him with aiding and abetting the suicide of his 42-year-old lover, Dipti Patel on April 7, 2009.

The homicide investigation, called Operation Today, continued and after police received more expert evidence, he was charged on July 24 last year with Mrs Patel's murder.

A DVD of the interview was played to the jury on the fourth week of the murder trial in the High Court in New Plymouth yesterday.

Mr Thorne, officer in charge of Operation Today, tells Kumar of the evidence that police have against him.

Mr Thorne asks if it is a coincidence that Kumar dropped his wife at work that day, rang Mrs Patel's landline several times and "a valuer goes around to view the property and comes across a person in the garage which fits your description to a T. You make your way to hospital [because of an injured finger], get discharged. You find out Dipti's died".

"Yeah, from the cops," Kumar says.

"You didn't seem to be concerned," Mr Thorne says.

"Did you drive her to her death?"

"No," Kumar replies.

"You say you never went there that morning?

"No. I wasn't there at all."

It was true he had been having an affair with Mrs Patel but the calls he made on his cellphone that morning were mistakes. He was trying to phone his work.

Kumar says the last time he saw his lover was about two weeks before she died.

Kumar asks the detectives how Mrs Patel died.

Mr Kawana asks Kumar if she killed herself, telling him, "You were there in the garage at the time of Dipti's death."

Mr Kawana shows Kumar the police photo of Mrs Patel lying dead on the garage floor.

"That was how she was when you left her. You left her lying on the garage floor."

"No, I wasn't there, mate," Kumar says.

Mr Kawana tells Kumar he's not telling the truth. "Your story so far is nonsense. We know you were there."

Mr Kawana says Kumar's DNA was found on Mrs Patel's sari.

"That's what my DNA says?" Kumar asks.

"Yes. How did it get there?" Mr Thorne asks.

"That is what I'm wondering," Kumar replies.

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Mr Thorne suggests Kumar confess that he was in the garage that day, turned up at her home, found her, panicked then left.

The interview finishes with Mr Thorne formally charging Kumar with aiding and abetting Mrs Patel's suicide and asking him if he has anything to say.

"I want to have a lawyer," Mr Kumar says.

Cross-examining Mr Thorne, defence lawyer Peter Winter said the two officers tried to pressure his client into a confession.

"He was questioned but not pressurised," Mr Thorne said.

"It was good cop, bad cop, detective, wasn't it?" Mr Winter said.

"I would disagree with that comment," Mr Thorne said.

The court also heard from engineer Geoffrey Scrase, of Quest Integrity NZ Ltd, formerly the Scientific and Industrial Research Department.

Mr Scrase said he tested a similar skipping rope to the "incident rope" to find its breaking weight.

In the first test, a load of 4.67 kilograms was gently dropped.

"We observed the rope to stretch and the top knot slipped right to the top and tightened significantly."

In the next test, a weight of 53kg, the weight of Mrs Patel, was attached and lowered slowly, leaving a distance of 2300 millimetres between the two knots.

In the third "dynamic" test, there was a rapid dropping of the 53kg load.

Because there was so much stretch in the rope it was raised to 2.9 metres before the free-fall of the load.

"At the height of 100mm from the floor, the rope broke."

The truss at Gaine St from which the rope was attached was at a height of 2510mm, he said.

The rope stretched from 1100mm to 2600mm, an extra 1500mm, 2.4 times its original length.

Tests carried out on the incident rope were "not vastly different", he said.

"So that gave us reasonable confidence that the tests on the intact rope were valid," Mr Scrase said.

- Taranaki Daily News

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