Arson-accused 'had no motive'

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 17:43 03/12/2012

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A couple charged with the arson of a Christchurch vehicle service centre had neither the opportunity nor the motive to commit the crime, defence counsel Pip Hall has told a Christchurch District Court jury trial.

The Crown closed its case today against Kishor Singh, 55, and Ajeshni Healy, 33, who are charged with the arson of the Auto Repair Centre in Byron St, Sydenham, on September 27, 2008.

The defence opted to call evidence from five witnesses in the case, but the two accused did not give evidence.

Hall told the jury: ''The defence case is and always has been that the accused neither had the opportunity nor the motive to destroy their business.

 ''The Crown case is that this was an insurance job, but you may already be questioning that suggestion on the evidence you have heard.''

He said the couple were in the central city at the time of the fire, and nowhere near the business in Byron St.

Defence evidence - called early by video link - was that Singh had ''considerable means''. The trial was told by his financial adviser that he had a net worth of about $4.2 million at the time of the fire.

''Why would he need to do an insurance job for a business that cost about $150,000, for chattels worth about $35,000?'' Hall asked. ''This wasn't a significant amount of money in terms of his net worth.''

The defence called evidence from the manager of the Stock Exchange bar in central Christchurch, Anthony Bailey, that he had spoken to the couple in the street when he started work at the bar at 11pm on the night of the fire.

Singh was his landlord, and the Crown case was that he and Healy were drinking at the bar on that night, but left for 38 minutes about the time the fire was lit. The sighting about 11pm is within the period when the Crown alleges they had left the bar that night to commit the arson.

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Cross-examined, Bailey acknowledged that he had told the police in a statement in June 2009 that he could not remember the particular date, but he had written down the date after speaking to Singh who asked him to put it in a letter to his lawyer.

Crown prosecutor Claire Boshier told the witness that Singh had told police they did not meet anyone on the street when they left the bar and walked to get a meal on that night.

Ravinesh Kumar, Healy's brother, said he was the person seen loading supermarket bags and a computer monitor into Healy's car outside the business on the day before the fire.

 He said the bags contained groceries he had bought for Healy and he was transferring them to her car. He was borrowing the spare monitor which she was transporting because his car was full.

Closing addresses will be heard tomorrow.

- The Press

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