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Witness testifies in Indian-origin man's murder in New Zealand


Wellington, March 4
A New Zealand woman, who discovered the charred remains of an Indian-origin youth murdered in Auckland in 2013, has testified in court, media reported on Wednesday.

Shivneel Kumar, 20, and Bryne Permal, 22, are on trial for the murder of Shalvin Prasad, 21, who was found burned to death by the side of a road in rural South Auckland on January 31, 2013, the day after the convicts withdrew NZ$30,000 (around $23,000) from Prasad's bank account.

Sandra Campbell told the Auckland High Court that she discovered Prasad's burnt body at the end of the road towards a small park, while she was walking her dog.

Campbell told the court that she initially mistook the body as a tree trunk.

"I stood there for a minute or two deciding what it was. It wasn't a tree trunk. I decided I had to get home and ring the police. It was a body."

She then contacted the police to report her discovery of the body.

Earlier, the jury was shown footage of one of the accused, Permal, filling two cans of petrol at a Mobil station on the night Prasad disappeared.

Opening the Crown case on Monday, prosecutor Aaron Perkins alleged that the other accused, Kumar, was the instigator of the crime.

Kumar had previously borrowed NZ$7,500 from Prasad and had not repaid it, according to reports.

On the day before the body was found, Kumar "somehow talked Prasad into parting with even more money", Perkins said.

Prasad withdrew NZ$30,050 from his bank account and Kumar was waiting for him outside the bank.

"He considered that a sum of money was worth more than Prasad's life," Perkins said.

Tests showed petrol had been used as an accelerant and "almost certainly" Prasad was alive when he was set on fire.

Prasad was last seen alive on CCTV images, meeting Permal and Kumar at Permal's workplace at 9.20 p.m. on January 30, 2013, and all of them had left in one car.

In the days after Prasad's death, Kumar, formerly penniless, went on a "spending spree", paying cash for stereo gear, jewellery and clothes and paying off his fines and debts, including putting NZ$14,000 into his father's account.

Evidence would include a recording from Kumar's bugged car, where the pair were intercepted "getting their stories straight", Perkins said.

When interviewed by the police, Permal said Kumar had murdered Prasad.

Permal told police he was enlisted to help Kumar, whose car had supposedly run out of petrol.

Prosecutor Perkins said Permal's account would be shown to be "less than truthful".