Closing arguments heard in trial of man accused of murdering his wife

KELOWNA, B.C. — Competing explanations of a man's state of mind were presented to a B.C. Supreme Court judge Friday during closing arguments at his trial for the second-degree murder in the death of his wife.

The Crown says Tejwant Danjou was an abusive and violent man who allegedly murdered his wife by causing 52 injuries to her head and face in a West Kelowna motel room.

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The defence is asking for a manslaughter conviction and describes Danjou as suffering from delusions about his wife's fidelity.

His lawyer says Danjou, a former real estate agent in Surrey, B.C., didn't intend to kill Rama Gauravarapu when he hit her repeatedly with a wine bottle.

Danjou admits he caused the death of Gauravarapu in July 2018.

Judge Alison Beames will deliver her verdict Aug. 13.

The trial began earlier this year but was paused for several months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The evidence shows Mr. Danjou brutally murdered Ms. Gauravarapu," Crown counsel Michael Lefubure told the court. "He was acting purposely at all times, he showed no significant impairment, and he could see the consequences of his actions."

Lefubure put the duration of the attack at between 13 and 16 minutes based on evidence heard during the trial.

An autopsy showed 52 separate injuries to Gauravarapu's body, the court has heard.

"Ultimately, there was thought given to where the blows were landing. They were landing where they could do the most damage, on the head and face of Ms. Gauravarapu," Lefubure said.

Defence lawyer Donna Turko said Danjou was suffering a form of mental illness called delusional jealousy and did not have the intention to kill Gauravapu, or the capacity to reasonably foresee that his actions would lead to her death.

"The defendant was suffering a mental disruption of the mind before, during, and after the event," Turko said. "The nature of the blows seem frenzied rather than measured."

Turko noted that Danjou opened the door to a hotel employee who'd been sent to the room after noise complaints. "Why would you open the door if you had your wits about you and you knew you'd done something wrong?" Turko said.

Police, paramedics, and hospital staff all remarked on what appeared to be Danjou's unemotional state after his arrest, Turko said. She also relied heavily on the diagnosis of delusional jealousy given to Danjou by a forensic psychiatrist, hired by the defence, who interviewed Danjou months later in prison.

But Lefubure said the psychiatrist's assessment should be given "little or no weight," in part because Danjou told the doctor he couldn't recall much about his state of mind the day Gauravarapu was killed. And he said the observations made by those who dealt with Danjou after his arrest did not amount to anything remarkable.

The fact that Danjou was discovered by police underneath layers of cardboard in a dumpster near the motel shows he was aware of what he'd done and was trying to evade arrest, Lefubure said: "This clearly shows he was trying to hide."

But Turko said if Danjou was fully aware of what he'd done he would have more likely called a cab and fled, rather than hide in a nearby dumpster.

Danjou's climbing into the dumpster, Turko said, was more like "an animal-like instinct to seek safety" consistent with the behaviour of a mentally ill individual rather than a conscious effort by a capable person to avoid arrest.

(The Daily Courier)

This report was first distributed by The Canadian Press on July 3, 2020.

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