Auckland burning trial: Defendant claimed, 'We didn't murder anyone'
Two men accused of killing their friend by burning him to death were recorded in a candid moment saying: "We didn't murder anyone", their defence says.
Shivneel Shahil Kumar, 20, and Bryne Permal, 22, are charged with the murder of 21-year-old Shalvin Prasad, whose scorched body was discovered in January 2013 on the side of a rural road in Kingseat, South Auckland.
Kumar's defence lawyer Ron Mansfield closed his case Tuesday saying his client was a dishonest man but that was not enough to convict him of murder.
Mansfield said Prasad was "deeply unconscious" and appeared dead when he was set on fire, but there was no evidence of how he got into that state.
"Like it or not, on the Crown case, we have an area that is without explanation - where you have no help."
Though there was no evidence of what rendered Prasad unconscious, the pair were recorded in their bugged car with Kumar saying: "We didn't murder anyone", Mansfield said.
Mansfield said the Crown's initial theory was that the killing was an "execution" by fire of an alive, conscious man who was sitting, standing or kneeling where he was killed.
However, the lack of scuff or drag marks in the area, and the lack of signs of struggle even after the fire was lit, showed Prasad was "deeply unconscious" at the time.
Kumar's defence relied on Prasad being deeply unconscious and appearing dead at the time because it opened up a host of doubts as to what occurred before the burning of the body.
"Where is the evidence as to whether he became unconscious due to an accident or an intentional act?" Mansfield asked the jury.
"Where is the evidence of which of the two was responsible? Are you going to guess? What was the act?"
Mansfield said the Crown had since conceded that Prasad was lying unconscious when he was set alight, forcing the Crown on an "ulterior route to murder".
The Crown contended that whoever burned his body was also responsible for his murder because "there must have been a prior (act with) murderous intent", Mansfield said.
However, no evidence of that act had been presented.
Pathologists had testified that Prasad may have been rendered unconscious from a blow to the head, strangulation or suffocation, but there was no evidence as to which, if any, of those things occurred.
"From those unknown acts the Crown expects you to infer murder," Mansfield said.
Mansfield said if the jury could not rule out there had been a punch or a kick, then the Crown had already conceded these acts lacked the requisite murderous intent for a murder charge.
"It's not your job to guess or to speculate," Mansfield said.
"If you conclude that there is no reliable evidence as to how Prasad became unconscious - it's not your fault, it just means the charge is not proven and the appropriate verdict is not guilty."
Mansfield said even if the jury did somehow think an unlawful act had rendered Prasad unconscious, it could not guess which of the two did it and if it did, it would be using prejudice to do so.
Mansfield conceded that the jury would be "less than impressed" with Kumar's personality and actions and could even "despise" or "dislike" his client.
Permal's lawyer Paul Borich said there was no link between his client and Prasad other than Kumar.
The Crown has argued that Kumar instigated a plot to get money from Prasad and kill him.
Prasad withdrew $30,000 on January 30, 2013, the day before he died.
Permal and Kumar had large sums of money in the days after they met Prasad and Permal was recorded buying two cans of petrol.