Valuer tells of man at garage door

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 07/11/2012
Shanal Sajesh Kumar
JONATHAN CAMERON/Fairfax NZ
NOT GUILTY: Shanal Kumar.

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An Indian man wearing heavy-duty gloves answered the door of a garage in which a woman was later found dead.

The Crown has told the High Court at New Plymouth it was murder-accused Shanal Sajesh Kumar, 29, who was in the garage that day where the body of his former lover, Dipti Patel, was found by her husband on April 7, 2009.

The Crown says Kumar killed Mrs Patel then made it appear she had hanged herself.

Kumar has denied a murder charge, saying he was not there that day.

Yesterday New Plymouth valuer Daniel Grace described how he saw an Indian man, aged between 25 and 30, after arriving at 9am at the Patels' home at 44 Gaine St, New Plymouth, to carry out a property valuation.

"I felt like he'd been caught out and was hiding something. He was agitated, like a deer caught in the headlights," Mr Grace said.

The court has ben told that Mrs Patel and her husband Mukesh were separating as a result of Mr Patel finding out that his wife was having an affair with the accused.

Mr Grace said he got no reply to his first knock on the front door, so he went to the back of the property to check it out.

When he was close to the garage he heard noises coming from the inside. "There was a fair bit of activity, bumping, scratching and scraping noises."

He did not hear any voices.

To attract the attention of the person in the garage he returned to the front door and knocked again. Then he went to the side door of the garage. After about 10 seconds a man looked through the window at him.

The man was Indian, dark-skinned with short black hair, a slim build and brown eyes.

"He opened the door about a foot. He had both hands on the door and put his head around," Mr Grace said.

The man was wearing green PVC heavy-duty gardening gloves stretching to the mid-arm, and dark clothing.

Mr Grace said he assumed it was the owner, Mr Patel, and introduced himself, saying he was there for the valuation.

The man said he was a visitor and the owner had contacted him and asked him to tell Mr Grace to come back at 10am.

After questioning from Crown solicitor Cherie Clarke, Mr Grace said he heard no other noises coming from the garage.

Mr Grace said he left the property. When he was at Centre City having lunch he got a call from Mr Patel asking him about the valuation.

Mr Grace said he was surprised at the question because he was expecting Mr Patel to make another appointment.

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Yesterday morning, Shanal Kumar's mentor, Shiu Kumar, who sponsored him as an immigrant to New Zealand, said the accused told him that he had gone to see a friend at Gaine St on April 7 but on another day denied that he did.

Shiu Kumar said at work on April 6, 2009, Shanal Kumar appeared deep in thought and appeared to want to talk to him.

He went to Shanal Kumar's home at 7.45am the next day. He noticed his car wasn't there and no one answered the door.

He went to work and was told Shanal Kumar was away ill.

When he talked to Shanal Kumar the next day he appeared "frightened".

The police had been to their workplace to talk to Shanal Kumar about Mrs Patel's death.

Shiu Kumar said he was ashamed that he was the one who brought Shanal Kumar to New Zealand.

To cross-examination from Peter Winter, Shiu Kumar strongly denied accusations from Shanal Kumar that he sexually abused the younger man when the pair were living together and sleeping in the same bed.

- Taranaki Daily News

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