13 July, 2010
A fire broke out in Manuka St, Wentrworthville in the early hours of the morning on Australia Day 1995, completely destroying the house of Shanti Krishna and Ram Lingam. Both were home, along with their young son. Ram Lingam suffered serious burns in the fire.
It was quickly realised that the fire was deliberately lit. There was unmistakeable and undisputed evidence that petrol, from a tin usually stored in the garage of the house, had been scattered through two rooms of the house. Ram Lingam had also been doused with petrol himself.
It was also undisputed that the fire could only have been caused by Shanti Krishna or Ram Lingam.
Mr Lingam was in hospital for several weeks. He was interviewed in February by an insurance investigator - Shanti held a policy covering the property for fire damage. He said he had been asleep on the floor of the living room when he was awakened by flames. He denied that he had lit the fire himself.
He as interviewed again in March, this time by police. He again denied lighting the fire. In October he gave evidence at a coronial inquest into the fire and maintained his evidence.
Shanti was also interviewed by police, in January and April. She also denied responsibility for the fire.
In 1996, the DPP charged Shanti Krishna with maliciously inflicting grievous bodily harm to Ram Lingam with intent to murder, and in the alternative, with intent to inflict GBH. She was also charged with arson and fraud, in that she intentionally caused damage by fire to gain from the insurance policy.
In April 1997 Ram Lingam approached police with his solicitor and stated that he had in fact started the fire, because he was attempting to commit suicide. He repeated this version in another interview in October.
However the Crown proceeded with the charges, despite a circumstantial case, and the evidence of Mr Lingam. They hoped to damage his credibility through cross-examination, and expert evidence that challenged the description he gave of the fire. They also hoped to establish that because of the poor state of the relationship between Shanti and Ram, she had a motive to kill him.
However, the jury rejected the Crown’s case, although after lengthy deliberation. The Crown had presented a good deal of evidence that contradicted Ram’s second version of events, and submitted it should not be accepted. Once his suicide story was rejected, the circumstantial case for the Crown would be quite strong.
Shanti Krishna then applied for costs against the Crown, and was successful.