A homeless man of Indian origin, aged 33, has been handed a nearly 20-year prison sentence in New Zealand after being found guilty of sexually violating and fatally strangling a woman with Down’s syndrome in September 2021, according to a media report.
Shamal Sharma ruthlessly targeted 27-year-old Lena Zhang Harrap, who had Down syndrome, while she was on her routine walk in Auckland on September 22, 2021, as reported by The NZ Herald newspaper on Thursday.
Following an extensive, hours-long search that involved both police and local residents, Harrap’s body was discovered partially hidden along a bush-bordered walkway, approximately a kilometre away from her Mt Albert residence, the report detailed.
Sharma has been sentenced to 19 and a half years in prison, as stated in the report. He was apprehended on September 24, just two days after carrying out the appalling crime.
The police revealed that Harrap endured torture for approximately two hours, during which she was struck multiple times in the face before ultimately being strangled to death.
Harrap sustained 13 bruises and abrasions on her head, in addition to blunt force trauma that resulted in brain injuries, although they were not the direct cause of her death.
Crown prosecutor Matthew Nathan was cited as saying that some of the injuries were so severe that they could have been individually fatal. He acknowledged Sharma’s history of schizophrenia but emphasised that Sharma was not deemed legally insane at the time of the crime and that the attack was driven by sexual desire.
Nathan conveyed to the judge, “This has a degree of sadism through the infliction of pain.”
In addition to the violent murder of Harrap, Sharma faced charges for harassing another woman who was jogging in Henderson, West Auckland, just 24 hours before the tragic incident.
Sharma displayed no apparent emotion in the High Court as the minimum term of imprisonment for the mandatory life sentence was announced, the report mentioned.
The courtroom was completely packed with the relatives and friends of murder victim Lena Zhang Harrap, spilling over into a separate courtroom that was broadcasting the proceedings live. Following the punishment, family members sang an emotional waiata in Harrap’s honour outside the courthouse.
Harrap’s mother, Su Harrap, was quoted as stating, “No sentence is long enough, and no justice can replace the life and love that was lost.”
Sharma was taken into custody in September 2021, a mere two days after a volunteer searcher found Harrap’s partially hidden body along a bush-lined walkway roughly a kilometre from her Mt Albert residence. On the day she went missing during her regular morning walk, an extensive, hours-long search was conducted, involving both police and members of the community.
Harrap, who was 27 years old, is fondly remembered as “a little warrior from the moment she was born.” Adopted as an infant, she underwent heart surgery as a child and faced numerous disabilities that left her particularly vulnerable. Despite these challenges, she flourished, growing into a loving, kind, thoughtful, and religious person, according to her family. Harrap took great pride in the independence she gained through her daily walks.