Murder-accused points finger of blame
It was not a jilted lover who murdered Dipti Patel but her husband, it was claimed in a High Court jury trial in New Plymouth yesterday.
The Crown says Mrs Patel, 42, was murdered by Shanal Sajesh Kumar, 29 - the lover she had recently spurned.
But yesterday the defence turned on the husband, Mukesh Patel, alleging that he, and not Kumar had committed the crime.
That is at odds with the Crown contention that Kumar murdered Mrs Patel then made it appear that she had hanged herself with a skipping rope in her New Plymouth garage in Gaine St on or about April 7, 2009.
Her husband of 19 years found her dead on the floor of the family's garage.
Kumar was arrested last year after an extensive review of the evidence by pathology and rope experts. He denies the murder.
On his second day giving evidence, Mr Patel agreed with defence counsel Peter Winter, of Auckland, that he was concerned about his wife on April 7 and had returned home from his job at lunch time to see if she was all right.
Mr Patel told the court on Thursday that his wife had become terrified of Kumar who was threatening her, saying if he couldn't have her then no-one could.
Mr Patel went home from work during his lunch break from Fitzroy Engineering after he was unable to raise his wife on the phone.
She should have been at home waiting for a property valuer.
Mr Winter said there were 40 minutes unaccounted for before Mr Patel rang his friend, Kanti Patel, to come to his house.
Mr Winter said Mr Patel had gone to the police and returned to the house before he, accompanied by Kanti Patel, used his key to the garage and they discovered Mrs Patel.
Mr Patel: "Yes, we went into the back section then we went into the garage."
Mr Winter said Mr Patel went into the garage and saw his wife, yet did not check whether she was alive.
"You said you did not know if she was still alive or not.
"You did not go to check to see if you could save your wife's life?"
Mr Patel responded that "it was very frightful" when he saw her - the position she was in on the floor.
"Because we were frightened, we just thought we should shut the door and call the police. It was a really terrifying sight. I just did not have the courage to go in. I just couldn't go in."
Mr Winter: "That was because you knew she was already dead."
Mr Patel: "I cannot say if I knew. It was such a frightening sight I couldn't go in. I can't tell you if she was alive or not."
Mr Winter: "You knew she was dead because you killed her."
Mr Patel: "How can you say that to me? I was at work. At the end of the day she was my wife.
"We were in the same bedroom as well. We were going to separate but we were still together."
Mr Winter: "Either you killed her or you arranged for somebody to kill her."
Mr Patel told Mr Winter, through his interpreter, that he had a dirty mind.
"You are making up all this story.
"I am an honest man and I live by the truth. That's all I can say."
Mr Winter said Mr Patel had not forgiven his wife for the affair.
Mr Patel: "The question of forgiveness doesn't come into it.
"We actually wanted a peaceful life and to just carry on."
To Crown solicitor Cherie Clarke, Mr Patel described his wife as a good woman and a good mother.
"I used to tell my children she was next to God and they should respect her as such."
After questioning from Justice Timothy Brewer, Mr Patel said nothing had changed in the couple's marriage after he found out about the affair.
"It was her wish we stay together as one family."
Justice Brewer: "Is that why she was continuing to live with you and have sex with you as if nothing had happened?"
Mr Patel: "We have been together for a long time; sex was never a big issue in our marriage."
Mr Patel said his wife knew she had made a mistake and wanted them all to stay together.
The trial is expected to run for another two to three weeks.