Puneet Puneet shields his face from cameras as he is escorted into court.
Puneet Puneet shields his face from cameras as he is escorted into court.

Drunk driver killer’s new insult

PUNEET Puneet is a desperate man.

Facing extradition from India to Australia over the 2008 death of Queensland student Dean Hofstee, the 29-year-old has cried in court, taken poison, banged his head into hard surfaces and claimed he "will be killed" if he's sent back to Australia.

Puneet, a learner driver at the time, was travelling at 150km/h with a blood alcohol reading of 0.165 when he lost control of his car and hit Mr Hofstee. The 19-year-old died from his injuries but his passenger, Clancy Coker, survived.

Puneet pleaded guilty in a Melbourne court but while on bail awaiting sentencing in 2009 he used a friend's passport to escape Australia to India. He was arrested on his wedding day in The Punjab four years later.

Learner driver Puneet Puneet's car hit and killed Dean Hofstee and injured Clancy Coker outside the Mantra Hotel in City Rd, Southbank in 2008. Picture: Fiona Hamilton
Learner driver Puneet Puneet's car hit and killed Dean Hofstee and injured Clancy Coker outside the Mantra Hotel in City Rd, Southbank in 2008. Picture: Fiona Hamilton

 

Puneet Puneet in handcuffs after the crash. Picture: Fiona Hamilton
Puneet Puneet in handcuffs after the crash. Picture: Fiona Hamilton

 

In August last year, Puneet argued in an Indian court against extradition. An Australian citizen within the Indian community recruited to help keep Puneet in India told his trial: "Indians are not safe in Australia and every case against India has some racial point to it."

His lawyer went even further last week with a statement that has been viewed as an insult to the victim's family.

"Accidents happen, it was not a rape or murder," Kanhaiya Kumar Singhal said, according to

the Herald Sun . He said the death was "unfortunate" but "not intentional".

In a Delhi court on Friday, Puneet's lawyers were making arguments over whether he was mentally competent to be the subject of an extradition decision when the defendant began making high-pitched noises and calling for his uncle.

Puneet Puneet. Picture: Victoria Police
Puneet Puneet. Picture: Victoria Police

A judge stopped proceedings to ask: "What happened? Stand up Puneet! Stand up! What happened?"

Puneet, with a bandaged head, fell into his uncle's arms and began crying hysterically, before he was removed from the courtroom. The judge then asked: "Who was making those sounds? Was that him?"

Bhaskar Valli, the advocate for the Union of India, which handles extradition cases for the Indian government, said the defence argument about Puneet's mental health was "yet another malicious application".

The defence has also previously argued Puneet suffers from kidney problems, schizophrenia, weight loss and at one point drank poison, due to his fragile state of mind.

Puneet Puneet arrives at a local police station in India with his face covered.
Puneet Puneet arrives at a local police station in India with his face covered.

 

Puneet Puneet (left) arrives at court. Picture: Tawqeer Hussain
Puneet Puneet (left) arrives at court. Picture: Tawqeer Hussain

 

"If he or his lawyers feel his mental state will not lead him into a safe environment, let him come forward so that we can verify this," Mr Valli said.

"This is not a man of good intent or bona fide character", he added, referring to Puneet's actions in fleeing from Australia nine years ago.

Earlier this year, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews again called on India to send Puneet back to Australia to face justice.

"The fact that he in a cowardly act, scarpered, ran away from facing the consequences of his actions, speaks volumes for his character," Mr Andrews said.

"I think everybody across Victoria would be pleased to see him sent back to do the jail time that he should do right here."

- with AAP


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