James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Man admits burning wife alive

Ranjeeta Sharma son Akash took out restraining orders on husband Diwesh who pleaded guilty to killing her. Photo / Christine Cornege
Ranjeeta Sharma son Akash took out restraining orders on husband Diwesh who pleaded guilty to killing her. Photo / Christine Cornege

Ranjeeta Sharma attempted to revoke a protection order against her husband three days before firefighters found her burning body on a rural Waikato roadside as he was preparing to flee the country.

Yesterday in the High Court at Hamilton, Diwesh Kumar Sharma, 30, pleaded guilty to murdering Mrs Sharma on January 20 last year.

His 28-year-old wife was still alive when he poured an accelerant over her and set her on fire 10km from Huntly.

The Herald can now reveal that Mrs Sharma, under the surname Rekha, was granted a protection order for herself and her son Akash, 4, on December 15, 2010. However, at a hearing on January 17 last year she indicated to the Manukau District Court that she wanted to withdraw the order.

The court confirmed Mrs Sharma wanted to discontinue proceedings, but said a court-appointed lawyer for Akash had opposed her doing so. Orders were made for filing applications and submissions and a hearing was to be set to determine the issues.

The order remained in place, but before the matter could be resolved, Mrs Sharma was dead. It is understood the order was not the first Mrs Sharma had taken out against her husband.

Sharma left for Fiji the day after her body was found, taking the couple's son Akash, but was soon found by Fiji police and escorted back to New Zealand by Hamilton detectives.

A close relative of Mrs Sharma, who did not wish to be named, said her family had helped Mrs Sharma through the process to obtain protection orders as she did not know how.

Her family had tried desperately to help her get away from her husband, who they said was abusive, housing her and helping her to get a job and driver's licence.

"We were trying to create a fresh start for her, but for some reason she kept going back to him."

The relative said Sharma "stalked" his wife while she was living with her family. "My dad saw him sitting in his car outside her work sometimes when he went to pick her up, and my mother remembers seeing Diwesh on our street a few times. He was abusive, physically and verbally.

"We suspect that Diwesh got in contact with Ranjeeta and convinced, or perhaps even threatened her to go back to him - this may have happened on several accounts when she tried to get away from him. We also received numerous phone calls from his parents and other family members pressuring us to send Ranjeeta back to him."

She said Mrs Sharma changed after she married the man who would eventually kill her. There was a "significant difference in her personality" after she wed.

"I remember her being bright and happy when I was young, but when she was staying with us in New Zealand she seemed the opposite. She seemed scared and insecure, it was like her husband and his family had taken all the life and joy from her."

She hoped Mrs Sharma's tragic and brutal death would not be in vain, and her story could save others.

"We would urge other women in Ranjeeta's situation to please learn from her ordeal. This could happen to anyone, despite race or culture, age, or even gender. Anyone who is in a domestic violence situation should get help and most importantly get out."

An agreed summary of facts was not available after yesterday's court appearance although it had been speculated that Mrs Sharma's death was an "honour killing".

As Diwesh Sharma was led from court one of Mrs Sharma's relatives shouted at him in Hindi. Outside, she said it was "a big relief" the family had been spared a trial. Sharma will be sentenced on April 3.

- NZ Herald

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