James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Wife burnt alive: Husband jailed

Diwesh Kumar Sharma who admitted murdering his wife by setting her on fire. Photo / Christine Cornege
Diwesh Kumar Sharma who admitted murdering his wife by setting her on fire. Photo / Christine Cornege

A man who set fire to his wife on a rural Waikato roadside before fleeing to Fiji has been sentenced to life in prison with a non-parole period of 14 years and six months for her murder.

Diwesh Kumar Sharma, 30, sat with his head bowed and eyes closed throughout his sentencing at the High Court at Hamilton this morning.

In February, Sharma, 30, pleaded guilty to murdering his wife, 28-year-old Ranjeeta Sharma.

She was still alive on January 20 last year when he poured an accelerant over her and set her on fire 10km from Huntly.

Justice Pamela Andrews said his actions were "particularly cruel''.

"I find it hard if not impossible to find a murder committed in a more horrible way,'' she said today.

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

Ranjeeta Sharma had attempted to revoke a protection order against her husband three days before she was murdered.

Mrs Sharma, under the surname Rekha, was granted a protection order for herself and her son, 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 the boy 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.

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."

- NZ Herald

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