A spurned man murdered his older lover then made it appear that she hanged herself with a skipping rope, a High Court jury trial has heard in New Plymouth.
Shanal Sajesh Kumar, 29, has pleaded not guilty to murdering his former lover Dipti Patel, 42, in her garage in Gaine St, New Plymouth, on or about April 7, 2009.
Mrs Patel's husband of 19 years found her dead on the floor of the family's garage with one end of a skipping rope knotted tightly around her neck and the other end tied loosely around a garage truss.
She had several injuries on her head and neck.
Although a Taranaki pathologist initially determined the death was suicide by hanging, Kumar was arrested in Auckland last year after an investigation by police, the court was told.
"The Crown says it will prove beyond reasonable doubt that you will be sure that Mrs Patel did not hang herself as that scene might at first blush appear," Crown solicitor Cherie Clarke said in opening the prosecution case.
The skipping rope was used as a ligature around her neck to strangle and ultimately kill Mrs Patel, Mrs Clarke said.
And the person who intended to kill her was Kumar, the same man seen by a property valuer in the garage on the morning of her death.
The jury would hear expert evidence from a forensic pathologist who studied deaths by hanging and that of a knot expert from Canada, Mrs Clarke said.
Forensic pathologist John Rutherford would tell the jury that the combination of injuries suffered by Mrs Patel pointed to someone else being involved in her death.
And knot expert Robert Chisnall of Canada would give evidence that the rope would have been "extremely unlikely" to have broken under Mrs Patel's weight. If Mrs Patel had tried to hang herself from the roof truss, Mr Chisnall's opinion was that she would have ended up sitting or standing with the rope still stretching.
Mr Chisnall's opinion was that the neck ligature was over-tight and had been secured with considerable force with two hands, Mrs Clarke said.
The other end was also knotted using both hands, Mr Chisnall believed.
Kumar appeared to have no support in court yesterday apart from his two Auckland lawyers. To date the trial is taking twice as long as normal because an interpreter, seated next to Kumar, is translating everything for him from English to Fijian-Indian.
Mrs Clarke said Mrs Patel, an Indian-born woman, and Fijian-born Kumar were having an affair which began in 2008 and ended about February 2009.
Mrs Patel's husband, Mukesh Patel, found out about the affair at his workplace after receiving an anonymous phone call tipping him off.
Mr Patel went home to confront his wife and she admitted the affair.
At the time of her death, the couple were amicably working through their separation and sale of their freehold Gaine St house.
Despite Kumar and Mrs Patel breaking up, Kumar continued to tell people he wanted Mrs Patel, he loved her and that if her husband did not want her, he would have her.
If not, he would take matters into his own hands, he told them.
Mrs Clarke said Kumar would ring Mr Patel and tell him dirty stories about his wife and how he had sex with her.
During one call, Kumar shouted angrily several times: "I love her and I want her" repeating it in both English and Hindi.
Mrs Patel told friends she was so concerned about the continuing calls she was thinking of ringing police to get a trespass order out against him.
In the morning before her death and while she was dropping off both her sons at their respective schools, he rang her four times.
Valuer Daniel Grace would tell how he went to the Gaine St house that morning about 9am but no one answered the door.
He heard noises in the garage.
He knocked on the garage door and an Indian man, aged between 25 and 30 with short dark hair, first looked out the window and then opened the door, holding it with both hands and peering around it so Mr Grace could not see past.
The man was wearing green PVC gloves on both hands.
Mrs Clarke said the Crown case was that this man was Kumar.
DNA evidence included a spot of Kumar's blood found on the sari Mrs Patel was wearing the day she died.
Kumar told police before his arrest last year that he had fainted that morning after dropping his wife at her work just before 9am and had then gone to the hospital for a check-up.
He denied he went to Mrs Patel's home that morning, saying he had not seen her for two weeks.
New Plymouth pathologist James Hunt carried out an autopsy on April 9, 2009, telling both police and the coroner that his conclusion was death due to hanging.
However he had noted a number of unusual factors.
The trial is expected to take between three to four weeks.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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