Prabha Kumar stabbing: Sydney cops probe hate crime angle, release CCTV footage

  • HT Correspondent and Agencies, Sydney/Bengaluru
  • Updated: Mar 09, 2015 14:00 IST

There is growing suspicion that the stabbing of Prabha Arun Kumar, the Indian IT consultant in Sydney, was a hate crime and not a simple case of mugging.

"Except her mobile phone, everything else is intact," Thrijesh Jaychandra, Prabha's relative told HT in Bengaluru on Monday.

The Sydney police, which is in constant touch with the family, has also conveyed to the family that they are probing the angle of racial bias being the motivation behind the crime.

Meanwhile, the husband of Prabha Arun Kumar has reached Sydney.

Kumar was on the phone talking to her husband when the attack took place -- just 300 metres from her home -- as she took a shortcut through Westmead's Parramatta Park, Sydney's western suburb, around 9.30pm on Saturday night.

"He stabbed me, darling," she told husband Arun Kumar, Sydney's The Daily Telegraph reported, as the conversation abruptly ended.

Kumar, a mother of the 9-year-old, had finished working a double shift at an IT company and was taking a shortcut home across Parramatta Park.

Her husband flew in to Sydney from Bengaluru to formally identify her body. Her daughter is yet to be told of her death.

The police released CCTV footage of Kumar walking home from Parramatta train station to find clues about the case.

"We are releasing (the CCTV tapes) in an effort to jog people's memories - someone who may have seen Prabha, somebody who may know Prahba - coming forward and providing us with the information that we need to work out why this has happened to her and who is responsible for it," homicide squad commander Michael Willing was quoted as saying by the daily.

Detective superintendent Willing said the footage did not appear to show anyone following the victim as she made her way home.

He said her husband talking with detectives about the conversation before she was killed.

"We have some detail in terms of their conversation," he said.

Police officers returned to the murder scene on Monday in a search for clues, a team of men scanning Amos Street that leads off the park.

Police have established a task force to investigate the murder but no arrests have so far been made.

Kumar, was set to return home next month after her working visa expired, after being sent to Sydney in 2012 to work for IT and outsourcing company Mindtree.

The company is based at The Rocks but Kumar had been working with a client at Rhodes when she caught the train home on Saturday, getting off at Parramatta Station about 9pm.

'Screams on phone'

Kumar's brother-in-law, Thrijesh Jayachandra, told The Hindu that she had told her husband that a man was following her.

"She was walking while talking to Arun on the phone when she said that a suspicious-looking man was following her," Jayachandra was quoted as saying by The Hindu.

"The next moment, he heard her scream for help and then plead with the man not to harm [her] and take all her belongings if he wanted. Seconds later, he heard her scream and say she was stabbed," he said.

"We received a call from someone from her office around 6:30 or so in the evening saying she was out of danger, but later in the evening we were informed by her brother Shankar, who lives in Perth, that she is no more."

Kumar, who was found by a passer by shortly afterwards, was treated at the scene and later died at Westmead Hospital. She had lost too much blood and doctors were unable to save her.

The victim's flatmate said Kumar had probably not wanted to bother anyone to ask for a lift home after finishing work late and arriving at Parramatta train station at 9pm.

Instead she decided to walk, and was attacked near a tree-lined walkway.

"Because she was working late regularly, she felt bad to ask for help," her flatmate, who asked to be identified as Sarada, told The Daily Telegraph.

"Maybe that is the reason she did not call."

Sarada said she had repeatedly warned her friend not to walk through the park after dark.

"I told her that it is not a safe way to come through because there are people that stop and ask you for money, like $2," she said.

"I don't know how I am going to face her husband. She is very close to her husband and her daughter. She talks to them every day, as soon as she finishes work she calls her husband and keeps talking. She has a good family."

Mindtree in a statement has called the incident extremely "unfortunate" and "shocking".

"Our prayers are with the family of the deceased. We are working with the officials of both the countries to help the family to bring the body back to India. We are providing all the necessary support to authorities investigating the case," it said.

A spate of violent crimes against Indian students in Australia in 2010, including the stabbing murder of 21-year-old Punjab man Nitin Garg as he walked to work at a fast-food restaurant in Melbourne, heightened tensions between Australia and India.

But since then the number of tourists visiting from India has picked up, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has described warmer relations between the nations as "natural" during a 2014 visit.

(With AFP and PTI inputs)

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