Woman disfigured in mystery incident dies

Last updated 00:19 02/02/2014
Monika Chetty
MYSTERY ATTACK: Monika Chetty was found with burns so terrible she couldn’t be physically identified.

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A homeless woman who suffered burns to more than 80 per cent of her body has died in hospital.

Monika Chetty, 39, was found by police in Sydney bushland behind Ferraro Crescent at Hoxton Park on January 3, after a resident reported hearing a woman crying for help.

It later emerged the Fijian Indian woman had been roaming Sydney's western suburbs for weeks after being horribly disfigured in a mystery incident involving chemicals.

Residents had seen Chetty washing under garden taps and begging for food in the days prior to her being taken to Liverpool Hospital. She initially rejected medical help and did not appear to be suffering pain.

She was later transferred to Concord Hospital's Burns Unit and when questioned by police she explained the burns were the result of an acid attack in Liverpool's Bigge Park.

However, in an email seen by Fairfax Media, a member of the Fijian Indian community wrote to leaders in May asking for help for Chetty, who was already severely burnt when seen begging outside the Carnes Hill shopping centre.

"Monika [said she] is recovering from burns sustained from opening the radiator cap on her Ford Laser car, which she sleeps in," Jameel Ahmed, of Hoxton Park, told the Indian Australian Association of NSW president, Dr Yadu Singh, and Muslim community representative Amjad Mehboob.

But Ahmed pointed out the burns appeared to be "far more aggressive" than what you could expect to receive from a radiator cap.

Dr Singh said he would be surprised if the burns were the result of an acid attack, a form of assault often seen in India which aims to disfigure victims, often because they have rejected sexual advances by men. "The acid attack is very unusual in Australia," he said.

"If it is an acid attack, this is not acceptable."

Chetty reportedly has three children who live with her former husband. Green Valley Local Area Commander Detective Superintendent James Johnson has described the case as one of the "biggest mysteries" he has come across in a career spanning more than four decades.

"I'm perplexed," he said. "You have serious injuries and you're not wanting to get attention. I can't understand it."

Chetty died on Friday evening in hospital. Police assisted by homicide detectives are still investigating the circumstances surrounding her death and would prepare a report for the Coroner.

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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