It's been nearly 10 years since police found a badly-burned body in the boot of a car at a West Auckland home. Now, the Herald can reveal details about the lengthy and perplexing case after a judge decided there will be no trial.

A woman accused of murdering her sister and leaving her charred remains in a car has been declared unfit to stand trial nearly a decade after the gruesome Auckland killing - despite a judge saying there is evidence pointing towards her guilt.

Boushra Hashem Rahman was first arrested and charged with the murder of Shaema Hashem Rahman on October 13, 2008.

She appeared in court via AVL, pushed into a blank room on a wheelchair and dressed in white at the Mason Clinic, for a disposition hearing today in the High Court at Auckland.

While at Auckland's forensic psychiatry service for mentally-ill criminals, she has assaulted other patients and staff and was in a wheelchair because of such an attack.

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During the early hours of October 11, 2008, her 24-year-old sister's body was found by police in a car and inside the garage of a Henderson home.

When officers arrived they found Rahman in a bedroom.

She said she'd been in a fight with her sister and police say she admitted killing her sibling on October 9.

But, the case wasn't as simply as a confession to officers.

Now, after years of legal wrangling, the Herald can finally reveal details of the prosecution of Rahman for murder.

Blurred motives - blackmail and insurance fraud?

Up to 10 people were believed to be living in the house, neighbours told the Herald at the time the body was found.

The family was said to be from Iraq and had been "victims of war".

The Crown would rely heavily on Rahman's confession to officers shortly after they discovered her sister's body.

She said she had drugged her sister before stabbing her.

But, Rahman would soon start denying the murder, claiming the confession was false and made under pressure from family members.

Her alternative account of what happened blamed her brother's wife for the killing.

She said she witnessed her stabbing and killing her sister.

The motive, Rahman said, was that her sister had an audio recording of her sister-in-law admitting more than $20,000 in insurance fraud.

Rahman claimed the sister-in-law then threatened to also kill Rahman's brother unless she told police she was the murderer.

She said her sister-in-law had moved her sibling's body to the garden, poured petrol on it and burned it.

The next day, Rahman said her brother called police.

One neighbour had called the Fire Service about a plume of thick black smoke coming from the property.

"The police said they could have been burning the sister's body. They said that they found a petrol can over there," the neighbour said.

The body was so badly burned it had to be identified through dental records, while a post-mortem examination also found incision marks.

Rahman then changed her story last year.

Suppression orders prevent the Herald from reporting why her story changed.

Unfit to stand trial?

Rahman's case has dragged on through the courts for the past decade, ever since several mental health assessments were ordered after her arrest.

Psychiatrist reports from last year show she suffers from psychosis and borderline personality disorder, amongst other mental disabilities.

She was first found unfit to stand trial in May 2010.

In June that year an order was made to detain her as a special patient.

But, in January 2012, her status was changed by the director of Area Mental Health and on January 10 she was transferred from the Mason Clinic in Auckland to the Haumietiketike Unit in Porirua, another forensic mental health unit.

Rahman spent more than two years there, before in September 2015 then Attorney-General Chris Finlayson directed she be brought before the courts again and tried.

Police and forensic teams, pictured in October 2008, investigate at the West Auckland home where the body was found. Photo / Michael Craig
Police and forensic teams, pictured in October 2008, investigate at the West Auckland home where the body was found. Photo / Michael Craig

The Attorney-General's decision relied on reports from clinical psychologist Dr Duncan Thomson and psychiatrist Dr Nick Judson.

The experts said she would struggle to give instructions to her legal counsel, misinterpret questions put to her, and be unable to follow all aspects of the trial - but none of that mattered if she could follow the court proceedings in general terms.

Thomson said Rahman was approaching the adequate level of competency.

"[The accused] is fit to stand trial although steps will need to be taken to mitigate the effects of her disability," he said in his report.

Hudson concurred and said: "Rahman appears to have recovered sufficient competence to be considered fit to stand trial."

Rahman would next appear in court again in November 2015, but attempts to assess her fitness to stand trial were delayed.

Rahman was requiring frequent hospitalisation due to self-harm.

She was banging her head and ingesting objects, including one of her hearing aids and the batteries. She had also tried to strangle herself.

The court heard today she has also inserted objects into wounds and poured hot water on herself, while suffering side-effects from her anti-psychotic medication.

Finally, in May 2016 a hearing was held in the Waitākere District Court to determine Rahman's fitness to enter a plea.

As a result of medical evidence submitted for the hearing, Judge Lisa Tremewan found Rahman fit to stand trial.

However, the judge had reservations and noted that accommodations would need to be made to assist Rahman with the court proceedings.

The badly-burned body was found in the boot of a car inside the home's garage. Photo / Michael Craig
The badly-burned body was found in the boot of a car inside the home's garage. Photo / Michael Craig

In December 2016, a two-day depositions hearing was held in the Auckland District Court to establish if there was enough evidence to place Rahman on trial.

There was and Rahman was committed to the High Court for trial on December 13, 2016.

A trial was scheduled last September but again the issue of her fitness arose and the trial was adjourned.

The defence team obtained two further psychiatrist reports which said Rahman came close to the threshold of being found unfit to stand trial.

Two days before a March hearing, Rahman was seen by a psychiatrist, Dr Ian Goodwin.

Clinical notes show that after Goodwin left the room she threw a cup against a wall, shouted that she needed to die, and punched a fire hydrant door.

Rahman needed to be physically restrained by staff and sedated.

At the hearing, Rahman was heavily medicated and not restrained as she had been at previous court appearances.

She was also not wearing her sports helmet as she had at the depositions hearing.

Two staff members from the Mason Clinic watched her and were ready to intervene if she posed a danger to herself or others.

Two doctors, including Goodwin, said she was now unfit to stand trial.

The 'killer's' judgment

In a May judgment following the March hearing, Justice Mark Woolford declared there was sufficient evidence to conclude Rahman killed her sister.

However, he also concluded Rahman, whose behaviour was "not motivated by a desire to escape justice", is unfit to stand trial.

"Rahman has a number of complex conditions that all contribute to the overall finding of unfitness," he said.

"Previous clinicians, in fact, thought it desirable for therapeutic reasons for Rahman to have her day in court. Others have said that the criminal process should be allowed to continue in order to see what will happen.

"Rahman will not be able to follow the court process with sufficient degree of understanding to make it fair. Nor will she be able to process information adequately in order to instruct counsel," Justice Woolford said.

Rahman was remanded back to the care of the Mason Clinic as a special patient, and Justice Woolford said today treating her properly will be difficult.

Under law, a special patient can stay in care for a maximum of 10 years, however, Rahman's status can be changed to allow her to remain in care for longer.

"Given Ms Rahman's complex needs, the risks she poses and the flexibility required, I consider an order that Ms Rahman be detained as a special patient appropriate, notwithstanding that, in total, it is probable she will spend more than 10 years as a special patient or special care recipient," Justice Woolford said at today's hearing.

The judge also said that given the circumstances of the case, the Attorney-General, the Minister of Health, the Director of Mental Health, or the director of Area Mental Health Services should be involved in decisions regarding Rahman's status, leave and eventual release.

"Those decisions should not be left to the clinicians that treat her," he ordered.

"The additional oversight special patient status provides is necessary given the complex issues in this case."

Leave was also granted to Rahman's lawyer, David Niven, to apply for a stay for the outstanding murder charge.

Without a trial, however, what really happened in 2008 at the West Auckland home may never be known.