Indian charged with murder of wife, stepdaughter in Sydney (Lead)

June 2nd, 2008 - 3:12 pm ICT by admin  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, June 2 (IANS) Sanjay Mehta, an Indian national employed as an engineer, has been charged with the murder of his wife, 38-year-old Jyoti Mehta, and his nine-year-old stepdaugher Ujalla Dinesh, both Indian nationals, whom he reported missing May 5. Mehta allegedly murdered his wife and stepdaughter in Dunn Way in the western Sydney suburb of Blacktown, according to a police statement submitted to the Blacktown Local Court Monday afternoon.

He then placed the two bodies in a vehicle and took two other family members for a drive to Echo Point lookout at Katoomba, a popular tourist spot in the Blue Mountains about an hour’s drive from Sydney, the police document states.

While the two family members went for a walk, Mehta threw the bodies off the cliff, which landed 150 metres down on the canyon floor. He then drove home, the police allege.

Mehta was arrested Sunday night at 10.15 p.m. from the family house in Dunn Way Blacktown after a walker sighted a female’s body at the bottom of Echo Point lookout at about 2 p.m. Sunday and informed the police.

About 6 p.m. Sunday, police from the Blue Mountains Local Area Command and the Rescue Squad located the body of a second female, a short distance from the first body.

Due to deteriorating weather and light conditions, the Blue Mountains crime scene was secured overnight and the bodies were retrieved Monday morning. Blacktown crime manager Gary Hutchen said the bodies were in “a state of decomposition when found”. The bodies have yet to be formally identified.

Mehta, 41, had met Jyoti on the Internet in July 2006 and they were married in May 2007 after she moved to Australia.

According to police, the wife had approached the Jessie Street Domestic Violence Service in January this year after she was verbally abused by her husband, who had also threatened to kill her or have her deported.

Jyoti had also told her younger sister, who lives in the western suburb of North Parramatta, that her relationship with Mehta “was very strained and that he had recently been physically violent towards her”, the police document states.

Mehta’s former wife, who had returned to India after their marriage broke down, is said to have returned to the family home in Blacktown May 26. A neighbour told the local media that Mehta had a son and a daughter from the previous marriage living with him as well.

Mehta had reported his wife and the girl missing on May 5. Police facts before the court Monday indicated the man asked his 14-year-old son to tell the police that he had searched the neighbourhood for his wife and stepdaughter for two hours that night. His son later allegedly told the police that he had misled them.

The police said mobile phone records placed him at the scene where the bodies were dumped.

The police say they have an “extremely strong” prosecution case against Mehta, who has denied his involvement in the killings.

Mehta will remain in custody until his next appearance in court July 21.

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