Differing versions of death put to jury

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 11:03 20/11/2012
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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The Crown says Indian mother of two Dipti Patel was murdered by her younger lover, who strangled her with her children's skipping rope.

That is their case against Shanal Sajesh Kumar, 29, which was put to the jury yesterday in the High Court at New Plymouth during a day of summing up in the fifth week of Kumar's trial for murder.

Kumar denies the killing, his defence being that he hadn't seen his 42-year-old lover for two weeks after the two had gone their separate ways.

Rather she either killed herself or her husband - angered at her infidelity - killed her, or had her killed, defence lawyer Peter Winter told the jury.

Crown solicitor Cherie Clarke said that there was overwhelming evidence that the accused killed Patel on April 7, 2009, between 8.40am and 9am when she fell victim to blunt force trauma to the top of her head and was strangled with the skipping rope used as a ligature around her neck.

"The accused then cleverly staged the scene - making it look like Mrs Patel hanged herself," Clarke said.

During his first interview with police that afternoon, he never asked how she died.

"The only reason he didn't ask was because he knew," Clarke said.

It was Kumar himself who made the initial anonymous phone call to Dipti Patel's husband Mukesh Patel at his work to tell him of the affair.

And he then told an older Indian woman that Dipti Patel made him crazy. She told the court that he appeared agitated, troubled and disturbed.

His intention was to have Dipti Patel himself and when this did not happen he raged to the Patels' friend "he would do something himself".

"Well, sadly for Dipti Patel, his solution . . . was to kill her," Clarke said.

Winter said it was for the Crown to prove the case. There was no need for the defence to bring evidence. However they had done so because they wanted to show a different side to the Crown case.

If it was not suicide, who was responsible for her death, Winter asked.

The most important witness, Claire Tume, police chose to ignore.

If the jury believed Tume, who said she saw Patel in a gold sari at 9.55am the day of her death and that she waved to her, then "that is the end of the case", Winter said, because that was the time that his client was at the hospital and was not discharged until 1.30pm.

The jury had to decide if he was there or not there.

"I suggest he was not there."

Dipti Patel, a usually very vibrant person, was very depressed at the time. There was no evidence of a struggle in the garage and no defensive injuries.

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The box found near her had fresh cracks in it and the rope was broken. It could have snapped if used as a suicide rope.

Dipti Patel's husband had said everything he'd worked for had been destroyed by the couple's affair. "You might think there's motive there."

Justice Timothy Brewer will sum up today after which the jury will retire.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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