View interactive

Murder 'devastating' for family

By James Ihaka


Ranjeeta Sharma was a kind, beautiful and caring woman who had a warm smile and was friendly to everyone.

But relatives noticed a change in her after she married a jealous Diwesh Sharma, who years later would take her to a remote Waikato road, douse her in petrol and set her on fire.

Diwesh Sharma, 30, sat with his head bowed and his eyes closed through much of yesterday's proceedings before he was sentenced at the High Court at Hamilton to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 14 years for the grisly murder of his wife in January last year.

Family members, whose victim impact statements were read in court, said the murder had been "devastating and painful". Mrs Sharma's cousin, Janice Sharan, said she always remembered her smiling.

"But when she came to stay with us during her marriage she was a completely different person," she said.

"Diwesh tortured and broke her in so many ways before actually killing her. She was insecure and tired and I can't ever remember seeing her smile."

The couple's relationship began to sour in 2010 after they moved from Fiji to Auckland eight years earlier.

A court summary of facts revealed that on January 20 last year Mrs Sharma told her husband she was going to work but instead went to the home of another man whom she had started an intimate relationship with.

Three days earlier Mrs Sharma had tried to revoke a protection order she had earlier filed against her husband, who was on bail for assaulting her.

Sharma phoned her workplace and found she wasn't there.

After repeated calls to her mobile phone, Sharma conned her into thinking their son had been injured and asked her to come home.

Sharma bundled his wife and their son into his car and left their Papatoetoe home about 8.40pm heading south before stopping at a Huntly service station where he bought a 5-litre plastic container and 5 litres of petrol.

He then drove to a remote site on Hangapipi Rd, near Rotowaro, where he moved Mrs Sharma to the side of the road. He lay her face down in gravel, dousing her with petrol, before setting her alight while their son sat in the passenger seat.

Sharma then drove back to Auckland and left for Fiji with his son the following day. He returned voluntarily when police caught up with him.

Defence counsel Roger Laybourn said Sharma told Fiji police that he had killed his wife in a "jealous rage" but had strangled her and took her body in the boot of the car.

Sharma maintained she was dead when he set her alight, but a pathologist's report concluded she was alive. Justice Pamela Andrews said the murder was "particularly cruel" and because of the severity of her injuries, Mrs Sharma's family were unable to open her casket at her funeral.

Justice Andrews said it was 'very distressing" to read about the impact Sharma's actions had had on his son.

"The event has had a profound effect on him and will be with him for a very long time. He is sorely grieving for his mother and he has had to come to understand that his father is in jail for killing his mother."

She said the sentence starting-point for his offending was 17 years but she took into account his early guilty plea, which he entered in February.

After the sentencing, Ms Sharan said she hoped Mrs Sharma's death would draw attention to New Zealand's serious domestic violence issues.

She said a story was made up about a culturally-motivated reason for her murder: "One that was completely false and distracted from the real issue at hand, one that is a New Zealand issue." Detective Inspector Chris Page said the investigation highlighted that "regardless of ethnicity, wealth, culture or poverty - domestic violence is present across all these and has far-reaching effects".

Justice Andrews revealed Sharma had sent her a letter before he was led from the dock, saying that he hoped his son would one day forgive him.

- Hamilton News

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a3 at 21 Sep 2014 22:05:46 Processing Time: 346ms