TWO men who burned a 21-year-old supermarket worker to death over his life savings have been locked up for at least 17 years.
Shivneel Kumar, 20, and Bryne Permal, 22, were sentenced in the High Court at Auckland today over the death of Shalvin Prasad, whose smouldering body was found on a rural South Auckland road on the morning of January 31, 2013.
Justice Geoffrey Venning stressed to friends and family of Mr Prasad - who numbered about 50 in the public gallery - that the sentence was one of life imprisonment, regardless of the minimum non-parole periods.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
He said Kumar, who has a partner and child in South Africa, was "entirely without remorse" and had attempted to convince probation in a pre-sentencing interview that his co-defendant was the one who killed Mr Prasad.
Permal also denied responsibility for the man's death but the judge said he was clearly involved and was the one who bought the petrol.
The victim's mother Shammi told the court the killing of her "kind and sympathetic boy" happened just four days shy of his 22nd birthday.
"How much pain must my baby have gone through? He must have cried for help and we were not there to help our baby in the final moments of his life," she said.
Mr Prasad's brother Pravin said he spent that day, which would have been his brother's birthday, on the rural roadside where his charred remains were found.
"Those images will forever be embossed on our lives," he said.
On January 30, the victim withdrew $30,050, in $100 and $50 bills, from a Manukau bank at the request of Kumar, who waited outside.
Crown prosecutor Aaron Perkins said the money element was a "significantly aggravating factor".
"Killing for financial gain is not a particularly common feature of cases in this country," he said.
Despite them both being charged with murder, Kumar was fingered as "the instigator and driving force" behind the crime.
He said on the night of January 30, Mr Prasad met the two defendants and the group drove through South Auckland.
The Crown said the victim was assaulted at an unknown location and bundled into the boot of Permal's mother's car, driven by Kumar.
The defendants then bought 15 litres of petrol, using the stolen money, before driving to McRobbie Rd in Kingseat, where they doused the victim in petrol and set him alight.
Justice Geoffrey Venning said Mr Prasad had been rendered deeply unconscious by the killers.
He said it was most likely the result of "long and deliberate compression to the neck area" and he accepted the pair probably thought he was dead at the time of the burning.
Medical witnesses gave evidence that Mr Prasad was conscious when the fire was ignited.
"The only matter of small comfort to his family may be that he was deeply unconscious at the time he was set alight," Justice Venning said.
In the days after the murder, Kumar spent thousands of dollars on his car and paying off various debts and on February 2 he and Permal went shopping together.
Store records showed they got tattoos, watches and T-shirts totalling nearly $2000.
Large sums were also deposited into bank accounts linked to Kumar.
"Money wasted on rubbish by those heartless criminals," Pravin Prasad said.
"Whatever sentence is handed down today will not be enough."
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.