Woman takes own life after being socially-isolated in abusive relationship, Coroner finds

Kurt Bayer, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 14 Apr 2022, 1:52pm
Woman alleges she was abused by a Cyfs-approved caregiver when she was 14. Photo / NZME
Woman alleges she was abused by a Cyfs-approved caregiver when she was 14. Photo / NZME

Woman takes own life after being socially-isolated in abusive relationship, Coroner finds

Kurt Bayer, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 14 Apr 2022, 1:52pm

The tragic, self-inflicted death of a 28-year-old migrant woman months after arriving in New Zealand has prompted a Coroner to urge women in abusive relationships to seek help. 

Tina Singh, also known as Tina Sharma, died suddenly at her Selwyn St, Christchurch home on September 11, 2017, just three months after coming from India. 

Last year, an inquest into her death heard evidence that her husband Narinder Singh was controlling and abusive – allegations that he denied. 

Coroner Alexandra Cunninghame, in a newly-released coronial report, has ruled out initial fears from her family that he was responsible for his wife's death. 

"After Tina died, her family raised concerns about the circumstances of her death, and in particular, whether Narinder was responsible,'' the Coroner found. 

"By the time of the inquest, the parties had agreed that no other person was responsible for Tina's death, and that it was a suicide." 

Punjab-born Tina Singh married Narinder Singh in January 2017 after it was arranged by their families, and moved to New Zealand in June that year. 

Her intention was to get approval to work as a pharmacist before they would start a family. 

But three months later, she took her own life. 

The Coroner found that Tina Singh had found life in Christchurch socially isolating and had become worried about her future. 

"There is no evidence that she ever left the flat by herself to exercise, explore her new city, or shop," Coroner Cunninghame said. 

"She did not have her own Eftpos card or New Zealand bank account, and she could not drive." 

The Coroner said that Narinder Singh discouraged her from speaking to her brother Deepak Sharma, who also lived in Christchurch, and her best friend. 

"He had limited her contact with her brother and had discouraged her from speaking with her best friend. 

"I also heard evidence that he knew her phone pin number and was in the habit of carrying her phone around for her." 

Evidence that Narinder Singh physically abused his wife was also put before the Coroner. 

Coroner Cunningham's report states that Tina told her mother she and Narinder argued after their wedding and "that he had slapped her after he came home from an evening out". 

A neighbour claimed he saw Narinder "gripping Tina, either by her face or by the front of her shirt". 

Narinder Singh denied that both alleged incidents ever happened. 

On the night of Tina's death, an argument between the couple at about 1am was loud enough to be heard by their neighbours and was, the Coroner found, "almost certainly marked by violence". 

"This argument was the final straw for Tina, who had been unhappy in a marriage where she experienced arguments and violence, and who may have been feeling isolated and trapped," the Coroner wrote. 

The argument "upset Tina so much that", unbeknown to Narinder Singh, she took her own life and died around 5am on September 11, 2017. 

Coroner Cunninghame said there were groups in Christchurch that could have helped Tina Singh after arriving in the city. 

"Tina's best friend and mother believed that Tina would not have known that she could have sought help from organisations which exist to support women who are experiencing domestic violence," the Coroner's report says. 

Women's Refuge, Canterbury-based Aviva and Shakti Community Council, a non-profit group that offers services and a safe refuge for ethnic women and their children, all helped women who find themselves in unhappy or violent relationships, the Coroner said. 

"I have determined that the tragic story of her short time in New Zealand should be shared with the public with the message that these organisations are available to help women, and that there is no shame in contacting them," she wrote. 

"It is particularly appropriate that this information is disseminated among the Indian migrant community. 

"I hope that encouraging conversations about these difficult topics can go some way towards further educating and empowering our community so that other families can avoid such tragic events." 

Finally, the Coroner extended her condolences to those who loved and supported Tina Singh. 

"Tina was a beautiful, intelligent young woman who had worked for her bright future. She died far from her home county, in sad circumstances." 

Where to get help: 

- Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
- Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
- Youth services: (06) 3555 906
- Youthline: 0800 376 633
- Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
- Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
- Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
- Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
- Helpline: 1737

If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111. 

- by Kurt Bayer, NZ Herald