A jury has been unable to reach a verdict in the two-month murder trial of Kulwinder Singh, who was accused of murdering his wife in a petrol-fuelled blaze in Sydney’s west six years ago.
Parwinder Kaur, 32, died in hospital from third-degree burns to 90 per cent of her body on December 3, 2013. A day earlier, a neighbour heard a bloodcurdling scream and saw Ms Kaur running down her driveway while on fire from the neck down.
It was alleged in a NSW Supreme Court murder trial that Mr Singh, 41, was responsible for dousing his wife in fuel and setting her alight.
On Friday, a jury of six men and six women was unable to reach a verdict after deliberating for four days. They had been told the court would accept a majority verdict of 11 jurors, but sent a note saying they were “unable to get a consensus of 12-0 or 11-1”.
Justice Natalie Adams formally discharged them and thanked them for their service.
“Some time next year a different jury is perhaps going to come along and consider this again, or maybe not,” Justice Adams said.
Mr Singh’s barrister Margaret Cunneen, SC, argued the jury should be given further time to deliberate because it would be “a tragedy of the greatest order” if the trial was for nothing.
Crown prosecutor Chris Maxwell, QC, agreed the situation is “regrettable”.
Prosecutors had argued during the trial that Mr Singh was abusive to his wife of eight years and did not give her access to the wages she earned working at a mushroom farm seven days a week, so by the day of the fire she had become determined she would leave him.
Ms Kaur’s sister told the court Mr Singh had previously threatened, “If she thinks she can get a divorce from me like this, this is not how this is going to happen. We kill and nobody can figure out.”
Ms Cunneen said in closing remarks that Ms Kaur lit herself on fire to create drama, but the blaze got out of hand and Ms Kaur let out a “dreadful” scream which alerted her husband.
Ms Cunneen said Mr Singh was upstairs packing his belongings and intended to stay at his mother’s house for several days to keep the peace after a disagreement, but Ms Kaur believed he was leaving the marriage.
“She didn’t mean to harm herself. She meant to create this drama to change what was happening that day, to regain control,” Ms Cunneen said.
Mr Singh was seen running behind Ms Kaur shortly after the scream, waving his hands as though he was trying to pat out the flames.
The trial heard evidence that Ms Kaur made a triple zero call in the minutes before she was seen on fire. In a soft voice, Ms Kaur gave her name and address then said, “My husband nearly kill me”.
She was asked what her husband did, but there was no answer and the call was terminated.
Police who rushed to the home arrived to find her on the front lawn severely burned.
Ms Kaur’s fingerprints were found on a Victa fuel tin and a cigarette lighter in the laundry of the house, where the blaze is believed to have ignited. Mr Singh’s DNA and fingerprints were not found on either object.
Speaking outside court, the officer in charge of the case Detective Senior Constable Scott Brame said the process has taken almost six years and Ms Kaur’s family “would now like time to grieve and reflect on their daughter, sister and friend”.
He was flanked by Ms Kaur’s brother Sukhvinder Singh and sister-in-law Amanpreet Kaur, and said both were satisfied with the court process.
“They hoped the decision today would have brought closure to the tragic events that occurred on the second of December 2013,” Detective Senior Constable Brame said.
The matter will return to court for further directions on November 1.