The Court of Appeal has rejected a convicted murderer’s bid to bring new evidence to court that her dead husband had beaten and controlled her for many years in their marriage.
It has confirmed her life sentence with a 17 year minimum parole period for a plot hatched with her boyfriend to commit the killing.
The woman, Amandeep Kaur, was sentenced in February for conspiring with her lover to kill her husband in a brutal knife attack in a car parked on a South Auckland road.
In her appeal she argued the jury was not told of years of abuse, violence and manipulation by her husband, Davender Singh, and if it had known, it would have helped explain her strange actions before and after the killing and given more weight to her defence that she joined but then withdrew from a plan with her boyfriend, Gurjinder Singh, to kill the husband.
Kaur also argued the non parole period was too long because the trial judge had wrongly deemed the knife attack sufficiently brutal to qualify for that sentencing threshold and had treated Kaur and Gurjinder Singh as equally culpable in the murder.
Kaur’s affidavit to the Court of Appeal detailed allegations of serious physical, sexual and psychological abuse by her late husband – claims that had come to the surface during counselling in prison.
She told the court that in her culture women were subservient to men and due to her upbringing she did not want to tell others about the violence, fearing retribution and embarrassment.
A forensic psychiatrist Dr Mhairi Duff, said Kaur showed a number of psychological traits consistent with someone who had suffered longstanding abuse and had likely been dominated by both her husband and boyfriend.
“Dr Duff also states that Maur’s history of lack of control and lack of power within the marriage and the history of abuse would have been likely to have impacted on her state of mind, particularly in the three weeks prior to the offending, and may therefore have been of relevance to trial and to sentencing.”
Cross-examined by the appeal judges, Dr Duff said her opinion was based on Kaur’s account. “She acknowledged there would undoubtedly be elements of self-serving in Kaur’s presentation and that ultimately for our purposes her report was only relevant if the account given by Kaur was reliable.”
However the court said it had “serious reservations about the credibility of Kaur’s new evidence having regard to what can fairly be described as a pattern of manipulative behaviour and chronic lying to suit circumstances.”
It said the one aspect of her evidence that could be investigated in New Zealand had “been exposed as demonstrably false”; she had claimed her husband never taught her to drive or allowed her to obtain a licence but the Crown found she a learner driver licence and sat and failed her restricted test. “She clearly must have known how to drive and must have driven before,” the judges said.
When quizzed before the Court of Appeal, Kaur had changed her story to claim the opposite of her affidavit evidence that she was prevented from getting a licence – “namely he forced her to get one”.
The judges found that whether abuse by the husband happened over the 13 years of marriage or three weeks between learning of her affair and his death, that aspect would not have had a significant influence on the defence of ‘withdrawal’ from the plot to kill.
Kaur had initially claimed her husband had been killed in a robbery, then when the affair was discovered she said it was a dispute between the husband and boyfriend. “The claim of withdrawal was …inconsistent with her conduct at the scene after the stabbing”, not summoning help until Gurjinder Singh had time to get away and then calling her cousin, not an ambulance.
The Court of Appeal found she had invented the story of ‘withdrawal’ from the plot, not having mentioned her notes to investigating police, and while awaiting trial having poured over the evidence “for something to support her manufactured defence and seized on two notes that were sufficiently ambiguous.”
It said the jury was not likely to have rejected her withdrawal defence because of misconceptions about how abuse victims behaved. “Rather it is likely to be because of the significant challenges to the credibility of that defence.”
Her new evidence was neither credible nor cogent and could not now be admitted on appeal.
The judges agreed with the trial judge that Kaur and Gurjinder Singh were equally culpable. She knew where her husband would be parked, had written notes on the attack plans and timings and told Gurjinder Singh “not to spare” her husband.
And on the brutality of the attack, the appeal court found Kaur held down her husband’s hand as Gurjinder Singh attacked him 13 times with the knife resulting in a partial decapitation.
“Kaur must be held accountable for the level of brutality.”