Couple guilty of burning down garage

DAVID CLARKSON
Last updated 15:47 06/12/2012
arson trial
John Kirk-Anderson
GUILTY: Kishor Singh and Ajeshni Healy leave court last year.

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A jury has found a couple guilty of the arson of their auto repair business in 2008.

Kishor Singh, 56, and Ajeshni Healy, 33, were convicted after the verdicts delivered by the jury after more than a day of deliberations on the ninth day of the Christchurch District Court trial.

Judge Alistair Garland convicted them and set sentencing for March 4.

The jury began its deliberations at 11.30am on Wednesday and returned its two guilty verdicts at 2.20pm today.

Jurors had returned to court several times to see footage showing dim figures coming and going in the darkness of September 27, 2008, when the Auto Repair Centre in Sydenham burned down.

Experts had clashed over the make of the car shown arriving and leaving in the video.

Crown prosecutor Claire Boshier said the couple had left a city bar for a 38 minute period to burn down the business which was struggling financially, but defence counsel Pip Hall said the business was not in difficulty and the fire had cost the couple money.

They were the owners of the business, and evidence was called that Singh had a net worth of about $4.2 million at the time of the fire.

The defence had suggested that there was someone else who might have had a motive - an ex-employee who was said to be have made threats.

He had given evidence, denying making the threats and saying that at the time of the fire he had hoped to take over the struggling business himself.

Singh and Healy called evidence from five defence witnesses but did not give evidence themselves.

Hall applied for their release on bail pending sentencing, saying that Singh might have to give notice at his other job as an air traffic controller, and Healy would have to wean the son she is still breast-feeding.

Judge Garland said he realised that tariffs for arson were high, but if there was remorse and contrition, and arrangements to pay reparations, they might qualify for home detention.

Hall said a civil claim by the business' insurers was now before the High Court. 

He said payment of reparation would be "under active discussion" during the remand.

They must report to the police once a week, and not apply for travel documents. Their passports are held by the court.

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- The Press

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