Australia

Sydney man denies fire-murder of wife

A Sydney woman was seen on fire minutes after saying "my husband nearly killed me", but he says she burned herself, his murder trial has been told

A Sydney woman rang triple zero and said "my husband nearly killed me" minutes before a neighbour saw her in her driveway completely on fire, a jury has been told.

But the husband, Kulwinder Singh, immediately told responding police "she did it to herself", saying he had rushed downstairs to find his wife ablaze after hearing a scream

The 41-year-old has pleaded not guilty in the NSW Supreme Court to murdering Parwinder Kaur in December 2013 at their Rouse Hill home.

Opening the Crown case on Monday, prosecutor Chris Maxwell QC said the fire was fuelled by petrol subsequently discovered in the remains of her clothes when scientifically tested.

Although only Ms Kaur's fingerprints were found on the petrol container and the cigarette lighter, Mr Maxwell said the evidence would show Singh was responsible for her death.

He said Singh may have doused his wife with petrol and then lit it.

The alternatives were that by "some act or words he placed her in fear and forced her" to douse herself with petrol before he lit it, or forced her to light it after he doused her, or forced her to do both.

But defence barrister Margaret Cunneen SC said her client was in no way responsible for starting the fire which killed his wife.

A neighbour had heard a "piercing scream" before seeing Ms Kaur on fire and her husband "quite close to her" in the driveway, Mr Maxwell said.

Emergency services responded to the neighbour's triple-zero call made at 2.17 pm.

That was 12 minutes after Ms Kaur's call which was played to the jury.

"Ms Kaur is speaking in a relatively soft low voice," the prosecutor said.

After giving her address she said "my husband nearly killed me" before the operator asked: "What did he do to you?" But there was no answer and the call was terminated.

"The Crown points to this call as a desperate cry for help from Ms Kaur."

Mr Maxwell alleged the burning took place in the context of an eight-year relationship during which Singh had been abusive and controlling towards his wife.

She had a job picking and packing mushrooms, but her wages went into a bank account in her husband's name, to which she did not have access.

"Ms Kaur had become determined she would leave the accused, Mr Singh, that she wanted a divorce and she was not going to contribute all her money anymore," the prosecutor said.

Ms Cunneen noted neither Singh's fingerprints nor his DNA was on the petrol container or the lighter.

"The defence is that the deceased did this to herself," she said.

"(She) put petrol on her body and lit herself, not necessarily to kill herself ladies and gentlemen, but for her own reasons, to set fire to herself perhaps hoping to be rescued."

She noted Ms Kaur ended a phone call with her brother less than 30 seconds before she rang triple zero, yet she said nothing to him about any violence or attempt to kill her.

The trial continues before Justice Natalie Adams.

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