The son of a woman doused in petrol and set alight on the side of a rural Waikato road was in the car when she was burned alive and has nightmares about his dad doing the same to him, a court was told.
Diwesh Kumar Sharma, 29, pleaded guilty to the murder of his wife, Ranjeeta Sharma, when he appeared in the High Court at Hamilton in February, and yesterday Justice Pamela Andrews sentenced him to life imprisonment, of which he would have to serve at least 14 1/2 years.
It was revealed in court that Sharma was convicted of assaulting his wife in August 2010 and was on bail facing another assault charge for an incident that took place a month before the murder. He was also the subject of a restraining order at the time.
There had been conjecture over whether Mrs Sharma had been burned alive and in court yesterday that was confirmed, as was the presence of her 5-year-old son in the passenger seat of the car.
The boy, now 6, was not at court for his father's sentencing, but Mrs Sharma's cousin, Deepika Gosai, read victim impact statements and spoke of the traumatic impact the murder had had on the child.
Mrs Sharma's aunt had looked after him since the incident and said there had been many sleepless nights. "He woke up screaming in the night saying that mummy was a ghost and daddy was coming back to burn him, too," she said.
On January 20, 2011, Mrs Sharma told her husband she was going to work but instead went to see a man with whom she had recently formed an intimate relationship.
After calling her work and finding she was not there, Sharma called his wife repeatedly until she answered and lured her back to the house, saying their son had been injured.
A couple of hours later the couple and their son were in a car travelling south from Auckland. The court was told that Sharma tried unsuccessfully to borrow a petrol container at a Bombay service station. He then stopped in Huntly, where he bought one and filled it with five litres of petrol. Sharma claims he set his wife alight some distance from where he parked his car and said his son was asleep at the time.
Mrs Sharma's cousin, Janice Sharan, said there was no culturally motivated reason for the killing and it detracted from the problem of domestic violence in New Zealand.
Figures provided by the Justice Ministry show 8902 people were convicted of breaching protection orders between 2007 and 2010.
Labour justice spokesman Charles Chauvel said restraining orders were failing and the Sharma case indicated the Government needed to do more to ensure victims of harassment were protected.
"For years Labour has been saying that we don't take domestic violence in New Zealand sufficiently seriously. It's slowly starting to happen, but I think cases like this demonstrate that you can never relax."
Justice Minister Judith Collins said legislation would be introduced to Parliament this year increasing the maximum penalty for a breach of a protection order from six months in prison to two years.
The new legislation would send "a clear message that breaches of protection orders will not be tolerated", Ms Collins said.
People who were subject to a protection order were also required to attend a "stopping violence" programme.
As part of the ministry's review of the Family Court it will consider how these programmes could be improved to better respond to the nature of violence.
Hamilton police family safety team supervisor Alan McGlade said they were trying to be more proactive with monitoring protection orders but were often hampered by the availability of staff.
Police were also entirely reliant on people reporting breaches if they wanted action to be taken, he said.
Mr McGlade backed a Women's Refuge call for a specialist family violence court but warned it would have to be well resourced to work.
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