Neighbour admits to murdering student

IN THE days after Tosha Thakkar's battered body was found floating in a small canal off the Parramatta River, two dozen of her fellow Indian students rallied outside Burwood Local Court to demand justice.

A small measure of that justice was delivered at the same court yesterday when Ms Thakkar's former neighbour, Daniel Stani-Reginald, was committed for sentencing over her murder.

In a development which was greeted with relief by leaders of the Indian-Australian community, the court heard that Stani-Reginald had pleaded guilty over the March 2011 crime.

The magistrate Christopher Longley committed the 21-year-old for sentencing.

While the full facts of the murder are yet to be released, it is known that Stani-Reginald, a storeman, and Ms Thakkar lived in neighbouring apartments above an empty storefront on Edwin Street in Croydon.

It is believed that on the morning of March 9, Stani-Reginald waited for his victim's room-mate to leave and then went to Ms Thakkar's unit.

The accountancy student was raped - an act that Stani-Reginald has not admitted to - and murdered, possibly through strangulation.

Ms Thakkar's body was discovered in a large black-cloth case floating in a canal near Meadowbank Park by workmen undertaking regular maintenance on an oil line.

Stani-Reginald was arrested just hours later.

''She lived next door to him - it was a very unfortunate choice to live there,'' Detective Chief Inspector Pamela Young said after Stani-Reginald's court appearance in March last year.

''… It seemed in my view a bit of a time bomb for poor Tosha, living at that address.''

The murder drew a shocked and furious response from the Indian community both in Sydney and overseas.

While initial suggestions that the crime was racially motivated faded after it was revealed that the accused was an Australian of Sri Lankan origin, the attack further fuelled concern that Australia was not a safe place for Indian students.

The president of the Indian Australian Association of NSW, Yadu Singh, said news of the guilty plea and sentencing would be welcomed by his community.

''It shows us that the Australian legal system has found the perpetrator and brought the person to justice pretty quickly,'' Dr Singh said.

The president of the United Indian Associations, Amarinder Bajwa, said the murder was among a number of incidents that had strained the relationship between India and Australia.

''Whenever we go back to India the first thing they ask is 'are you safe there?' '' he said.

''It's good that justice is being done, but the life is lost and it is a huge loss for the family.''

The impact on Ms Thakkar's family and friends in the Gujarat region of India could be seen yesterday on her memorial Facebook page, which has 25,000 members.

''Again Navratri days … i m sure you will b missed by all your dear ones … RIP'' a friend of the 24-year-old said, referring to the Hindu festival of Navratri which took place earlier this month.

This story Neighbour admits to murdering student first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.