Sean Verma's Parents: Jessica Keefe Should've Been Convicted
The parents of a gang member who died during a domestic dispute feel his partner should not have been allowed to dodge conviction.
Mongrel Mob member Sean Verma, 30, died from a single knife wound to his heart during a fight with his 30-year-old partner Jessica Keefe, on January 29 this year.
Keefe was cleared of murder and manslaughter a fortnight ago. She told Hutt Valley police she did not know if she stabbed him at their Petone flat, or if the knife struck when he lunged at her. She said she picked up a knife to keep him away.
Nine months after his death, Verma's parents say justice was not served.
Rajesh Verma, 57, most days talks to pictures of his dead son on the wall of his living room, with a mixture of anger and sadness.
"I'm really pissed off with the 12 jurors that cost me justice. They say if you do the crime, you do the time. But no," he said.
"It's very sad that you stand and talk to your son, and he doesn't answer you. It hurts a lot. Life is not the same without him."
His son's three-year relationship with Ms Keefe had been volatile, he said, a point the defence used at Ms Keefe's murder trial.
The couple would drink and become violent, with Verma often beating her.
On January 29, Keefe drank about nine cans of a 7 per cent alcohol pre-mixed drink. She then took out her new top dentures and told her children to wait in the car before going to see her partner, who she said beat her when she drank.
The prosecution at her trial said that, instead of leaving when told to "f... off" by Verma, she stayed to finish the fight.
But defence lawyer Donald Stevens, QC, contended his client was a battered woman and the death was the unfortunate outcome of self-defence.
She was unanimously cleared of murder and acquitted of manslaughter in an 11-1 decision by the jury of seven women and five men.
"There were two angry people in that house," Mr Verma said.
"And things didn't connect.
"He wasn't a violent person. He was a very loved person, even though he was a gang member ... [and] she was a very good person."
Verma's mother, Karen, 61, agreed the relationship was fractious, but felt her son was unfairly labelled in court.
"There were too many women on that jury, that's how I felt. Too many of them feeling sorry for Miss Innocent. But she's not innocent; they don't know her."
Verma did not have a violent history with previous girlfriends, she said, and the pair were simply bad for each other.
"All you heard in court was he was Mongrel Mob, Mongrel Mob, Mongrel Mob. To us, he was a lot more than that.
"Jess, when she was sober, she had a heart of gold. But when she had that drink ..."
The parents had different opinions on the outcome of the trial, but agreed "she should've got something".
"That's not self-defence. You can't tell me he fell on the knife. She stayed there to finish the fight off," Mrs Verma said.
After the verdict, she went home to have a drink with her son, and tell him what happened, she said.
"I put the photo on the kitchen table and I had a beer and talked to him. I growled him. I told him, 'You're not here and I can't go visit you.' There's lots of things I told him that night."
Verma is survived by his 2-year-old son, Petone Reign Supreme Verma, who now lives in Palmerston North with Keefe's sister.
- © Fairfax NZ News