Corazon Miller is a NZ Herald reporter

Life sentence for Indian student who stabbed pregnant partner to death

The Indian national was told the "cruelty, brutality and callousness" of his actions meant a minimum term of 17 years was appropriate. Photo / Nick Reed
The Indian national was told the "cruelty, brutality and callousness" of his actions meant a minimum term of 17 years was appropriate. Photo / Nick Reed

An Indian national who, earlier this year, stabbed his pregnant partner to death and left her body on the side of the road is facing life behind bars.

The 24-year-old, known only as Akash, was sentenced in the High Court at Auckland yesterday after having entered a guilty plea to the murder of Gurpreet Kaur, 22.

In sentencing Judge Matthew Palmer said the "cruelty, brutality and callousness" of his actions, that had shattered a family's dreams, was such that a minimum period of imprisonment of 17 years was appropriate.

"That minimum period may well be more than 17 years; you may not be released even then, depending on their [Parole Board] decision. That is because you are sentenced to imprisonment for life.

"Gurpreet was the loved daughter of parents whose dreams are now shattered and destroyed. She was the fun, vibrant sister with a bubbly personality whose killing means her family will never be the same.

"Some of her family apparently worry that they played some part in her death. They did not. They now feel like birds who have lost one wing, and can't ever imagine flying again."

Justice Palmer, in court, summarised the events leading to the young woman's murder on April 7 this year.

He told of how Akash had picked up his partner of about a year from the Manurewa train station and drove south to Meremere where he purchased some methamphetamine and used at some point that morning.

Not long after the stop in Meremere, Kaur told Akash she wanted to end their relationship and that the baby she was carrying was not his.

The judge said the medical evidence showed Kaur, who had not informed her parents of her pregnancy, was seven to 10 weeks pregnant when she died.

"You reacted violently," Justice Palmer said. "Emotional upset at such news is understandable, but it does not excuse or justify reacting with any violence, let alone the extreme violence you used.

"Nothing Gurpreet Kaur did justified your actions."

The judge went on to describe how Akash stabbed Kaur 29 times in varying parts of her body - the deepest to her abdomen - before disposing of her body on the side of Hampton Downs Rd.

Not long after midday, he bought a few things from the local superette and headed north of Meremere.

Akash then attempted to cover up what he'd done, disposing of Kaur's bag by throwing it out his car window near Mercer, bought himself new clothes, and left his bloodied old clothes in a bag at a friend's house.

Two days later, Akash's brother called police to say Akash had confessed to the killing and was now threatening to kill himself.

Police found and interviewed Akash on Sunday April 10 and in a third statement he claimed Kaur stabbed herself.

He then showed police where to locate her body.

On April 27, Akash initially entered a not guilty plea to the murder charge and was due to face trial in February next year.

However, he changed his plea to guilty on August 17, was convicted and given a first-strike warning, before he was sentenced to life imprisonment this week.

Akash, a citizen of the Republic of India, had been in New Zealand since 2013 on a student visa and had been studying IT in Auckland.

His visa expired on 31 May this year and he was liable for deportation at the completion of his sentence.

The 24-year-old also had a past history of psychotic episodes, for which he'd been taking medication in India, but had stopped in New Zealand and turned to meth.

"Instead, at some point, you became a regular user of methamphetamine," Justice Palmer said.

Akash had also previously attempted to kill himself and was described as being "deeply depressed".

Justice Palmer said he'd considered these factors in sentencing but Akash's medical condition was not a mitigating factor.

"No expert evidence is before me about it," he said. "And you must take some responsibility for ceasing to take your medication in New Zealand."

Akash was deemed to be a "medium to high risk of harm to others, particularly when in a relationship with a woman".

Justice Palmer said he took into account the Department of Corrections had deemed Akash was genuinely remorseful and conscious of the pain he'd caused Kaur's family.

"But I also note that the terms of your letter blame your anger, not yourself," he said. "You blame your 'anger' which 'led' you to commit such a horrific crime and which 'took' your freedom, your love and your life away from you. You need to further reflect on, and own, your responsibility for your actions."

He also noted Akash's guilty plea, which had saved the family the upset of a trial, had come after his initial attempts to cover up the murder and deny his involvement.

Therefore he said a minimum sentence of 17 years was appropriate.

- NZ Herald

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