Pair on trial for burning down garage

A motor workshop manager denies trying to touch and kiss his employer and then threatening to "destroy everything" if she told anyone.

"That's totally fabricated," said John Patrick Weir, at the trial of the woman and her partner who are charged with the arson of their business in Byron Street, Sydenham.

Kishor Singh, 56, and Ajeshni Healy, 33, are charged with the arson at a time when they were struggling to pay for their rent on the premises, staff wages, and purchases of auto parts from suppliers.


They are accused of burning down the Auto Repair Centre in Byron Street, Sydenham, on the night of September 27, 2008, with the loss and damage for the rented building totalling $431,582.

Their own insurance claim for the business has not been paid, pending the outcome of the prosecution. 


Weir, the workshop's manager, denied the allegations put to him by defence counsel Pip Hall in the first day of the trial in Christchurch District Court.

He had wanted to buy the business and believed it was going under before the fire in September 2008, the day after he left the Auto Repair Centre to set up his own workshop.

His attempt to buy it had been declined, but his new business ended up with many of the customers.

Hall said: "Through the fire, you really got handed it on a plate."

"That's not my fault," Weir replied.

Hall also accused Weir of having "tried to lay your hands on her and kiss her".

Weir denied he said that if she told what had happened he would "destroy everything".

Weir earlier insisted Healy had asked him for his access code for the building's alarm system and he had given it to her.

He said he later heard rumours that it was his code that had been used to deactivate the alarm on the night of the fire.

Crown prosecutor Claire Boshier told the jury Singh and Healy had been drinking at the Stock Exchange bar in central Christchurch on the night of the fire, but left the bar for 38 minutes about the time of the fire and a car similar to the one Healy was driving was seen on a surveillance camera near the business.

The day before the fire, full supermarket bags and a computer monitor were seen been loaded into Healy's car, outside the business.

On the Saturday night of the fire, the pair arrived at the bar at 9.51pm to watch a rugby league final match, and the security camera recorded them leaving during the game at 10.37pm. 

A security camera at the corner of Gasson and Byron Streets shows a vehicle similar to the two-tone SUV that Healy was driving arriving at 10.45pm and reversing into a park behind a dairy.

Two people are seen to get out and walk towards Byron St.

At 10.50pm, the alarm in the Auto Repair Centre was turned off.

"The person who did it knew the code," said Boshier. 

A cellphone tower at the old railway station noted Healy's cellphone in the area at 10.51pm. A cellphone tower near Fitzgerald Avenue noted Singh's cellphone in the area at 11.09pm.

Two people are seen returning to the parked car at 11.05pm and 11.06pm. The bar's security camera shows Singh and Healy returning and resuming drinking at 11.15pm.

The fire was reported at 11.12pm and the first fire engine arrived at 11.18pm.

The building was badly damaged.

The couple initially told the police they had watched the entire league match at the bar, but when they were told of the camera footage, they said they had left for a time to go for a walk in the city and get kebabs.

The trial is expected to take more than a week.

The Press