Rajeshwar Singh during his sentencing for the murder of his
estranged wife Sarwan Lata. Photo: NZ Herald/Mark Mitchell
Wellington man Rajeshwar Singh will spend at least 16
years behind bars for murdering his estranged wife while he was
on bail for breaching a protection order she had taken against
In the High Court at Wellington this morning, Justice Ronald
Young sentenced Singh to a mandatory life sentence with a
minimum non-parole period of 16 years, and a concurrent
sentence of three months' jail for breaching two protection
Singh, 47, a taxi driver, pleaded guilty in May to killing
Sarwan Lata and two charges of breaching protection orders.
In November last year, he stabbed her to death after
bypassing her Woodridge home's new locks and an elaborate
warning system of vases and chairs that a fearful Ms Lata had
He had been granted bail the previous month while facing a
charge of breaching a protection order. The order prevented
him from seeing her or being near her house, but he had been
constantly near her home in the weeks leading up to the
Justice Young said a probation officer report showed Singh
had a deeply worrying attitude to women.
"You considered that you were entitled to kill her . . . You
had a callous disregard for your wife, and her family,"
Justice Young said.
"You did not understand, or did not appreciate, that men do
not control women. Your wife was perfectly entitled to not
live with you."
Aggravating factors included the home invasion - in breach of
bail conditions and a protection order - and that the murder
was planned. He had also been stalking her before the murder.
"You went there for the express purpose of killing her. You
killed your wife because she did not do as you wanted."
He noted Singh's early guilty plea.
Crown lawyer Ian Murray said it was another example of the
"scourge of serious domestic violence" in New Zealand.
"[Singh] smashed his way into the house and immediately set
about ending the victim's life. The events were recorded on a
111 call, which showed what a brutal killing this was."
Ms Lata was so afraid of Singh that she slept with a knife
under a pillow and a meat cleaver under her bed. She changed
the locks of her house and built an elaborate obstacle course
of vases and chairs as a warning system if Singh tried to get
The couple had come together in an arranged marriage in Fiji
in 1991 and moved to New Zealand in 1998. The couple had a
son who suffered from muscular dystrophy and died in 2011.
Police said the couple had a long history of physical and
mental abuse. There were nine reported incidents of family
violence since September 2003, and countless unreported
incidents during their 22 years of marriage.
In September 2008, the Porirua District Court granted Ms Lata
a protection order against her husband on the basis of an
attack that month. Singh received two formal warnings for
breaching the protection order in August 2012 and February
In October 2013, he made 38 abusive and threatening phone
calls to her over 26 minutes. He was arrested and was granted
bail on condition that he not contact Lata, or go to her
Lata feared for her life and changed the locks on the front
and garage doors, and would have done more if she could have
afforded it. She placed a number of large vases inside the
front door, and chairs in front of the door leading to the
garage to warn her if Singh had entered the house.
In the weeks before the murder, Singh's taxi GPS showed that
he parked beside Ms Lata's car in the carpark at Johnsonville
supermarket carpark, where she worked, and also drove near
The day before he killed her, he bought a knife with a 20cm
blade and some rope, and drank kava, a traditional island
drink that acts as a sedative and anaesthetic.
Just after midnight on November 26, Singh jumped a fence an
bypassed the locks, chairs and vases by breaking the glass of
the ranch slider that led directly to the bedroom. He reached
through the broken glass, unlocked the door, and stabbed her
several times in the chest. She had cuts on her arms and her
left hand as she tried to defend herself.
She managed to dial 111, and the line was open for 93
seconds. As well as recording her screams as they became
weaker and weaker, Singh was heard saying repeatedly in
Hindi: "It is causing you pain, isn't it?"
Afterwards, he tried to kill himself but police arrived and
revived him. They found a suicide note in his pocket.
Singh's lawyer, Rob Stevens, said Singh suffered from
depression at the time of offending - though he noted that
this did not reduce culpability.
Psychiatric reports indicated he was suffering from
depression since the death of his son in 2011, including
anxiety, distress and low mood after separating from his
"At the time he was not thinking clearly, and could not see
any other way out of his situation."
Singh has since expressed remorse for "the terrible thing
that he did".
Justice Young noted the impact on the victim's family.
"They have struggled to cope with her death. I wish to
acknowledge today their deep hurt.
"I do not accept that the remorse that is expressed in the
latest [psychiatric] report is of a nature that would justify
a reduction in sentence."
- Derek Cheng of APNZ