His mother says he is loving and kind, a family friend remembers him as a good kid and former teachers describe him as a model student. That is what the NSW Supreme Court has heard of Joshua John Ravindran, who is on trial for murdering his father.
Ravi Ravindran, 49, was found in a bedroom in his Medlow Bath house on April 23, 2011, with a white rope around his neck and bloody injuries to his face.
Mr Ravindran, 21, has pleaded not guilty, arguing his father took his own life. He told police he was angry to find his father’s body and hit it with a baseball bat.
The trial, before a judge alone, heard from Mr Ravindran’s mother, Anita Wood, who said that she had been estranged from her son for many years after she separated from his father.
Ms Wood described a letter Mr Ravindran sent her when he was about 14. “He didn’t want anything from me, he didn’t love me. His dad was his best friend,” she told the court
After Mr Ravindran was arrested, he was granted bail to live at his mother’s house and their relationship rekindled, she said.
“It’s been an amazing time. Josh has done everything he can to make the situation work. He’s the loving, caring, considerate boy that I remember from his primary school days.”
Ms Wood described Ravi Ravindran as “domineering”, but said he became depressed and demoralised after their separation.
Under cross-examination, she said she felt Ravi Ravindran had manipulated their son.
A family friend, Michael Franklin, said Mr Ravindran played well with his children on camping trips their families took together in the 1990s.
But he said his contact with the Ravindrans became less frequent in 2005, after Ravi Ravindran shared his views on father-son relationships. “He basically said he’d commit suicide if he lost Josh’s respect. I disagreed with that idea,’’ Mr Franklin said.
Three teachers from St Columba’s High School in Springwood said the allegations were completely at odds with what they knew.
Cathy Phillips, who was Mr Ravindran’s science teacher from 2007 to 2010, said he was a studious and talented pupil.
“He was always reliable, always respectful, always got on well with both his peers and all his teachers,’’ she said. “He was not involved in anything but his studies and did that very positively.”
Chrisy Lekkas, his homeroom teacher, described him as a model student.
“He never had any issues, he was a very good student,” she said. “His reports were brilliant,”
Mr Ravindran’s former chemistry teacher, Sarah Hagarty, was one of several staff who wrote to him in prison offering support. Ms Hagarty said he was never involved in any trouble or “schoolyard scraps”.
“He was never violent, or misbehaved in class, never, nothing.”
When asked whether she thought it was likely Mr Ravindran could kill his father, Ms Hagarty said: “Not at all. That’s the furthest thing I could ever imagine Josh even being capable of doing.”
The court heard that Joshua Ravindran had a fight with his father the night before he died.
According to evidence, Ravi Ravindran said to him: “No Indian boy would dare to speak to his father like this. You’ve completely lost respect for me and this family.”
The court heard Joshua Ravindran said he wanted to move out of the family’s Blue Mountains house, and his father called him “ungrateful”, saying “you’re just like your mother ... you’re being stupid and immature”.
Just before they went to bed, his father allegedly told him he was going to be making “some changes” and Mr Ravindran would know when that happened.
Early the next morning, the 49-year-old father died.
In his closing submissions, Crown prosecutor Terry Thorpe described the argument and said it went some way to providing a motive.
“Your Honour could come to the view on the night before the killing there was a degree of tension between the accused and the deceased,” Mr Thorpe said. “The accused was of the view the deceased was controlling.”
Mr Thorpe also pointed to evidence that Mr Ravindran washed his hands with methylated spirits that morning and delayed calling emergency services.
“What we say is that your Honour would be satisfied that the deceased was struck while he was in bed. It’s after that that rope is put around his neck. The Crown say your Honour would come to the view that a hanging didn’t occur and there has been an attempt to make out that has occurred.”
Psychiatrist Olav Nielssen, who assessed Mr Ravindran for the defence, said the beating would be an understandable reaction to his grief and shock, given the father and son’s complex relationship.
When Justice Stephen Campbell questioned whether members of the community may find that surprising, Dr Nielssen said: “I find it surprising too. It’s certainly not a typical reaction, but it’s not an impossible reaction based on clinical experience of people who have been bereaved.”
The trial concluded on August 8. Justice Campbell will hand down his verdict on August 14.