Shivneel Kumar, 20, and Bryne Permal, 22, were on trial for nearly a month in the High Court at Auckland for the murder of a compatriot Indian-origin man, Shalvin Prasad, 21, who was found burned to death in rural South Auckland on January 31, 2013, the day after he withdrew NZ$30,000 (around $23,000) from his bank account.
The jury after deliberating for around 20 hours found the duo guilty on Friday, The New Zealand Herald daily reported.
“We feel today that this decision finally holds these evil criminals accountable for the malicious death of my brother,” Prasad’s brother Pravin was quoted as saying.
Although the men will be sentenced at a later date, the daily said they were both expected to be jailed for life with a minimum non-parole period of at least 10 years.
“We are looking very forward to an appropriate sentence being handed down,” the victim’s brother added.
Opening the case on March 2, prosecutor Aaron Perkins said that on January 30, 2013, the victim withdrew NZ$30,050 from his bank account at the request of Kumar, who was waiting for him outside the bank.
“He considered that a sum of money was worth more than Prasad’s life,” Perkins said.
He said on the night of January 30, the victim met Permal and Kumar and was driven through south Auckland.
Prasad was last seen alive on CCTV images, meeting Permal and Kumar at Permal’s workplace at 9.20 p.m. on January 30, 2013, and all of them then left in one car.
Prasad was assaulted at an unknown location and bundled into the boot of Permal’s mother’s car, driven by Kumar.
The duo then bought 15 litres of petrol and set the victim alight. Tests showed that “almost certainly” Prasad was alive when he was set on fire.
In the days after Prasad’s death, Kumar, formerly penniless, went on a “spending spree”, paying cash for stereo gear, jewellery and clothes and paying off his fines and debts, including putting NZ$14,000 into his father’s account.
Store records showed the duo got tattoos, watches and clothes worth about NZ$2,000.
The 21-year-old’s charred remains were found early the next day by a woman walking her dog.
Evidence included a recording from Kumar’s bugged car, where the pair were intercepted “getting their stories straight”, Perkins said.
When interviewed by the police, Permal admitted that Kumar had murdered Prasad.