The trial for a Surrey man accused of killing his partner in a West Kelowna hotel room in 2018 is set to resume next week.
Tejwant Danjou is expected to be back in court to face second-degree murder charges related to the July 22, 2018 death of his common-law spouse, Rama Gauravarapu. His trial will continue on June 1 after a lengthy two-month break caused by the changes made to court procedures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Danjou’s trial began on Feb. 25 with a bombshell guilty plea, that surprised Crown prosecutors just as much as it did his counsel.
The following day, Danjou retracted that plea. His lawyer, Donna Turko, explained it as a misunderstanding, saying Danjou while admitting to inflicting Gauravarapu’s fatal injuries, did not know that a guilty plea to second-degree murder meant he was admitting intent to kill.
“When I went in with a set of admissions to sign … he refused to sign the admissions particular with the part that says he intended to kill the victim,” Turko explained on Feb. 26.
From there, the trial began, revealing several details of the night RCMP officers found Gauravarapu clinging to life in a blood-spattered hotel room.
The two arrived in West Kelowna on July 21, 2018, for a vacation in which they had planned to visit several local wineries.
However, they only made it to one, that being Mission Hill Family Estate the next day.
That trip ended up a turbulent one, with one witness citing a ‘harsh’ altercation between the two.
Bryan Van, a winery tour driver, told the court of the interaction he saw between the two that resulted in Danjou “violently” grabbing sunglasses off of Gauravarapu’s face before walking off by himself muttering curse words under his breath.
“‘F—king c—t; f—king b—ch.’ Harsh, harsh words,” Van said, adding Danjou was staring intensely at Gauravarapu.
Interactions like this weren’t uncommon between the two. One such incident prompted a police response to Gauravarapu’s Surrey home after Danjou had allegedly assaulted her on May 25, 2018, just two months before her death.
Danjou and Gauravarapu returned to the hotel in separate cabs just after 5 p.m.
Surveillance footage played in court showed Danjou spend much of the next hour walking around the hotel lobby and hallways while Gauravarapu immediately headed to her hotel room.
Around 6:30 p.m., Danjou went into the same room.
Following a noise complaint, a hotel worker went to check on the room occupied by Danjou and Gauravarapu.
She knocked on the door, which was opened by Danjou. She testified that he told her ‘everything was fine’.
Looking past Danjou, she saw Gauravarapu lying on the ground in what she believed to be blood or wine. Gauravarapu asked the employee to call 911.
RCMP showed up to the hotel around 7:20 p.m.
Const. Bradly Hartridge testified that upon his arrival, he saw Gauravarapu lying on the ground with an extremely swollen face and covered in blood. A broken wine bottle laid close by.
Officers immediately performed first aid on Gauravarapu, who was still clinging to life, but she eventually succumbed to her injuries.
Following the police investigation, Danjou was located, with the help of the RCMP dog service, in a dumpster near the crime scene and subsequently arrested.
Hartridge also testified that during that arrest, he heard Danjou say, ‘what is homicide?’
Following his arrest, Danjou was taken to Kelowna General Hospital.
Const. Rick Goodwin was tasked with watching Danjou while he was attended to in hospital. He testified Danjou wanted the RCMP to check a Ford F150 in Surrey that contained “crucial evidence” of Gauravarapu’s infidelity.
Goodwin told the court that Danjou remained civil, polite and calm throughout their interaction. “He was always calm. Never yelled at me; never swore at me,” said Goodwin.
In her cross-examination, defence lawyer Donna Turko noted Danjou appeared to have forgotten Goodwin’s name five times. She asked Goodwin if he noticed Danjou acting “a little off.”
Goodwin said given the circumstances, he wasn’t shocked.
“Maybe he had a lot on his mind,” said Goodwin.
Two nurses also testified Danjou had a “flat affect” and was “calm and emotionless” through their interactions with him.
However, that changed when Cpl. Meghan Foster, another officer keeping custody of Danjou on the night, informed him he was being investigated for his partner’s death.
“He appeared to be shocked by this news,” Foster testified.
Two weeks have been set aside for the completion of the trial.
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