Mum of three’s agonising murder from acid burns baffles police

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A Sydney mother who was found dead in bushland with acid burns covering 80 per cent of her body remains a mystery, a coroner has said.

An inquest into Monika Chetty’s demise has found that the acid attack, which was inflicted weeks before her eventual agonising death, was a homicide “by person unknown”.

It’s thought eight litres of hydrochloric acid was used in the attack.

“I truly regret that this inquest has not been able to resolve the many questions about Monika’s death and has brought no person to justice,” said magistrate Elaine Truscott on Thursday at Burwood local court in Sydney’s inner west.

The 39-year-old former nurse was found in bushland in West Hoxton, in western Sydney, on January 3, 2014.

When police found the extensively burned woman she was quietly crying out “help me, help me”.

The mum of three was taken to hospital where she couldn’t be initially identified because the burns were so extensive.

Ms Chetty told doctors she wanted to stay alive. Indeed, the attack is thought to have taken place at least three weeks before she was found between December 7-14, 2013, according to doctors.

But her burns specialist suspected she was doomed, despite her perseverance.

“(It was) the percentage of her body burned and her age,” he said on Thursday,” Associate Professor Peter Haertsch told the inquest.

“If those two things come to greater than 100, you are not likely to survive.”

Ms Chetty eventually succumbed 28 days after entering hospital from chemical burns to most of her body.

The case has baffled police for years.

Gambling

Ms Chetty split with her husband Ronald in 2009 after financial problems stemming from her gambling addiction that was significant from 2005.

Up to that point, Mr Chetty said she was a “great mum” and “normal partner”.

The inquest, which took evidence in 2020, heard that after Ms Chetty’s relationship broke down her life unravelled.

She became involved in fake visa scam, was homeless and slept in her car before losing that too. At the time of her death she was sleeping in bushland.

More than $184,000 flowed into Ms Chetty’s bank accounts between August 2010 and December 2013, but she was increasingly desperate for cash, often asking her ex-husband, her sister Mohini Prasad, her father, and friends for loans.

There is no suggestion any of these people were involved in her death.

Ms Truscott said the victim, “was involved in activities and had associations which would give rise to persons having motive and opportunity to cause harm to her”.

Burns appear

From 2012 onwards people who knew Ms Chetty said they saw burns on her which she said was caused by cooking oil, radiators or hot car bonnets.

Some acquaintances would tend to Ms Chetty’s wounds.

In December 2013, Ms Chetty was seen around Sydney begging and catching buses but with bandages and heavy clothing, in midsummer, covering her body. She was also seen hosing herself down.

She begged in a hospital lobby at one point. Staff asked her if she needed treatment but she declined to be treated.

The inquest found that Ms Chetty was likely attacked with acid three weeks before police eventually discovered her in the New Year and she was admitted to Concord Hospital, in the inner west.

Officers had been tipped off by an anonymous call.

Ms Chetty told police she had been in Bigge Park in Liverpool, in the city’s south west, when a person who was aggravated because she wouldn’t give them money poured acid on her.

But police told the inquest they did not believe her version of events that it was a random attack.

Ms Chetty’s death was the “result of homicide by person or persons unknown,” said the coroner in her report, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.

“I truly regret that this inquest has not been able to resolve the many questions about Monika’s death and has brought no person to justice,” Ms Truscott said.

Her recommendation was that police continue to look into how Ms Chetty was attacked and subsequently died.

Daniel Chetty, Ms Chetty’s son, said life had “not been the same since she left us”.

“The one thing I miss the most is saying I love you and knowing I’ll hear it back”.

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