By: Eastern Eye Staff
AN Indian-origin former banker was yesterday (1) sentenced by a British court to life imprisonment for the manslaughter of his wife.
Sonita Nijhawan was discovered in a pool of blood in her family estate in Surrey, south England, in May this year, having been attacked by an axe.
Her husband, Sanjay Nijhawan, had pleaded not guilty to murder on the ground of diminished responsibility. His trial heard that he had suffered depression and anxiety in the months before the gruesome assault.
He was originally due to be sentenced on October 10, but the hearing was delayed as the judge at Guildford Crown Court in Surrey ordered a psychiatric report on the 46-year-old.
“My conclusion is that there is a significant risk and there is risk that you would cause serious harm to members of the public, especially intimate partners. I considered the risk, and what I judge to be a residual amount of culpability,” Judge Fraser said during sentencing on Thursday.
He sentenced to Nijhawan to life imprisonment with a minimum term of nine years and 172 days.
“It was in any view a brutal and sustained attack in which you used an axe to attack her and a knife to stab her… The majority of the attack occurred when she was on or near to the floor or moved or had moved around the kitchen. This clearly was not a momentary attack, you and your wife had argued about divorce,” the judge added.
Judge Fraser also told the court that there was evidence of planning during the early hours of the morning, including research into the soft part of the skull.
During the trial in October, the court heard that Sonita had wanted a divorce.
A post-mortem examination revealed that the 38-year-old died of injuries to her head and neck, having suffered 124 wounds, of which 25 were to the side of her neck.
Injuries to her hands showed that she had tried to defend herself.
Prosecutor Sally O’Neill said: “The number and nature of her cuts make it clear that she was the victim of a fatal and sustained attack. She had a very large number of cut and stab injuries to her neck and head.”
The court was told that after he was arrested, Sanjay Nijhawan told officers that he had become “deranged” and had suffered a nervous breakdown.
He had reportedly quit his job with Barclays Capital Wealth after suffering from depression and anxiety and got further upset when his wife sought a divorce.
Nijhawan had also grown increasingly anxious about his £670,000 mortgage on the couple’s £2.6-million home in Surrey.
Nijhawan denied murdering his wife and the defence case was that he had an abnormality of mental function.