25 Jan 2011

Husband of burned woman found in Fiji

10:21 pm on 25 January 2011

The husband and son of the 28-year-old woman burned alive on the side of a Waikato road has been located in Fiji.

The body of Ranjeeta Sharma from South Auckland was found burning on a rural roadside near Huntly in Waikato on Thursday evening.


Police say her husband flew to Fiji with their four-year-old son the following day.

Fiji police Inspector Atunaisa Sokomuri said officers in Rakiraki on the largest island of Viti Levu took the man in for questioning about midnight on Monday. He remains in custody.

New Zealand police have yet to name him, but have confirmed he is a person of interest in relation to the homicide inquiry.

Detective Senior Sergeant Nigel Keall says the boy was found when Fiji police located his father and they are trying to verify the child's well-being.

New Zealand police met on Tuesday night to decide how to proceed in the inquiry and whether to release Ms Sharma's body to her family. They will make no further comment until Wednesday.

An uncle of Ms Sharma's says the family is devastated and to hear that a very beloved daughter was set alight when she was alive is something they can not imagine or get over.

Woman from well-known family

Ranjeeta Sharma was originally from Nukuloa Ba, in the Ba province, on Viti Levu.

Ba Town Council special administrator Arun Prasad says Ms Sharma came from a very good, religious and well-known family that is associated with the big farming communities in Nukuloa.

He said her father died in 2005 and her mother is now based in Suva with another daughter.

Mr Prasad said the community was shocked and very upset to hear of her death, and in particular of the way she died.

Indian Association says honour killing unlikely

The Auckland Indian Association says it is unlikely Ms Sharma was the victim of an honour killing.

Domestic violence group Shakti, which helps women from Asian, African and Middle Eastern families, says honour killings are carried out in some communities when a woman is considered to have brought shame on her husband or her family

Spokesperson Priyanca Radhakrishnan says victims are often burned to destroy any evidence.

Ms Radhakrishnan told Morning Report that to her knowledge one death in New Zealand in the past had proven to be an honour killing, though the nature of such deaths is that they can be made to look like accidents.

However, the Auckland Indian Association says the homicide is unlikely to have been an honour killing.

The association's president, Harshad Patel, says such killings are not common, and are something he associates with the past.

Couple doted on son, neighbour says

The couple had lived at a house in Manurewa until a few months ago. Former neighbour Neville Callander said they moved out of their home some months ago, without a word.

Mr Callander says he only had brief conversations with the husband of Ranjeeta Sharma, who owned a courier business.

He says the couple doted on their young son.

While the family mostly kept to themselves, he said the courier drivers gathered at their home for a few beers on Friday nights.