An Indian-Australian man has been awarded court costs after being cleared of his wife’s murder after a judge found it was unreasonable to convict him because there was no evidence that he was anywhere near her at the time.
Instead, the judge said it was likely that the wife set herself on fire in an echo of a Bollywood film she had just watched, killing herself accidentally when the fire reacted to the synthetic clothing she was wearing.
Kulwinder Singh was accused of killing Parwinder Kaur by pouring petrol on her and setting her on fire at their home in Sydney’s Rouse Hill on December 2, 2013.
His fingerprints and DNA were not found on a tin of petrol and a lighter found in the laundry room.
But his wife’s fingerprints and DNA were found on both items.
When Parwinder ran down the driveway engulfed in flames, Kulwinder was seen running behind her in a bid to pat her out.
At an initial trial in 2019, prosecutors said Kulwinder either threatened his wife to pour petrol on herself and light, or had poured the petrol and used the lighter himself, leaving no trace on the objects.
A jury was unable to reach a verdict in the 2019 trial.
Following a retrial in 2012, Kulwinder was found not guilty.
On February 10, 2023, Justice Natalie Adams said there was “significant difficulty” with the proposition that Singh was in the laundry room when the fire began because there was no DNA or fingerprint evidence putting him there and no petrol residue on his clothes.
The judge said the couple had been arguing because she had been giving money to relatives to help them move to Australia rather than paying her share of the mortgage.
On the day of her death, the pair argued and Kulwinder began to pack his bags to go to his mother’s house.
Earlier that day, Parwinder had been watching Gadar, where a woman conflicted between her family and her in-laws is hospitalised with an injury, causing her extended family to reconcile because they are so concerned for her.
Justice Adams said: “The fact that this film was the last thing that the deceased watched before the argument with her husband and her tragic death is informative and consistent with the defense case.”
Justice Adams said it is “hardly surprising” that police initially suspected Kulwinder of killing his wife because he was the only other person home.
But “the physical evidence overwhelmingly pointed to Ms Kaur being the one who poured the accelerant on herself and ignited it sometime later”.