Woman walked around with horror burns
Monika Chetty, the 39-year-old woman discovered alive and badly burned in western Sydney bushland in early 2014, continued to catch the bus and beg for money for weeks after sustaining her horrific injuries, a court has heard.
The mother-of three was found at West Hoxton on January 3, 2014, with burns to 80 per cent of her body.
She died 28 days later in Concord Hospital
She told police a man had thrown acid on her in Liverpool's Bigge Park a week before because she wouldn't give him money or cigarettes.
But detectives believe this is not what happened.
A search of the park uncovered no trace of acid damage, and Ms Chetty's burns were three or four weeks old.
Her awful death, and the myriad mysteries surrounding it, are now the subject of a coronial inquest before deputy state coroner Elaine Truscott.
Counsel assisting Christine Melis told the inquest on Monday expert evidence suggested Ms Chetty was burned between December 7-14, 2013.
Despite the incredible pain she must have been in, she was out and about in the ensuing weeks.
She caught a bus 10 times, saw neighbours in the West Hoxton area she was staying, and begged for money at a shopping centre, and even a hospital.
She concealed her severe injuries, to an extent, under bandages and heavy clothes - trackpants, a beanie, and an enormous grey hoodie - that she wore despite the hot December weather.
Some of the many people she encountered offered medical help, but she refused, saying she was fine.
"Words cannot describe" what her burns looked like, Ms Melis said, before displaying a photograph of Ms Chetty in hospital to the court.
"Who could have inflicted these injuries?"
Before 2010, Ms Chetty lived a "normal life" as a wife, mother and registered nurse, the court heard.
But after her gambling addiction led to the breakdown of her marriage in 2009, she became homeless and estranged from her family.
Her life became increasingly complex in a number of ways, the court heard.
She became extremely anxious about money, beseeching those around her for loans and even turning to crime.
"I need to pay today no matter what," she texted to her sister Mohini Prasad in one of her numerous pleas.
To whom she owed a debt, or debts, is another question deputy state coroner Elaine Truscott is seeking to answer.
In 2010 she became involved in a phone relationship with a man named "Nick".
Her diary entries suggest she became increasingly fearful of him, but police believe he never actually existed.
Her bank records show she received $184,275 between August 2010 and her death from 205 individual payments, the money always withdrawn soon after it was deposited.
Ms Chetty scammed Indian students, taking up to $20,000 cash in exchange for a promised visa that never materialised, Ms Melis said.
In some cases she further extorted the men by refusing to return their passports, the court heard.
Several men were deported after their documents were found among Ms Chetty's belongings.
Her other efforts to get money included briefly offering to marry a man for residency and begging across Fairfield, Liverpool and Cabramatta.
She regularly pawned jewellery at Smart Cash Loans in Fairfield, where records show she had received about $60,000 in loans and paid back $80,000.
She called one of its co-owners, Sadma Begum, "Angel Mum", and also knew Ms Begum's daughter, Mosmeen Mohammed.
After a friend she met through begging lent her $20,000, he followed her, and saw her hand it to Ms Begum in Smart Cash Loans, Ms Melis said.
The sum did not show up in an audit of the pawn store, the court heard.
Ms Begum and Ms Mohammed resided at a West Hoxton home from where neighbours often saw Ms Chetty coming and going.
In the days before she was found in bushland Ms Chetty stayed at the home, sleeping on the veranda, the court heard.
The two women gave her food and dressed her burns, the court heard.
When police asked Ms Begum and Ms Mohammed why they had not called an ambulance given the severity of her injuries, neither answered, the court heard.
Ms Chetty finally went to hospital after a neighbour called Triple 0 to report what he thought was a drunk man with tattoos in the bush.
A police officer who arrived observed "every part of her skin that she could see, being her arms, neck and face appeared to be severely burnt".
Ms Chetty told police she was "fine" and asked them not to call an ambulance.
Footage of Ms Chetty being interviewed by police from her hospital bed was played to the court.
In the first interview she was intubated and could only nod or shake her head.
In the second and third she spoke in a quiet, frail voice, through the small hole in the bandages otherwise covering her entire face, a detective leaning over the bed frame to hear her.
She insisted the Bigge Park story was what happened, and said she had taken two Nurofen after it happened.
"What should we be doing as the police to get to the bottom of this?" the detective asked.
"You have to find the truth," Ms Chetty said.
Her injuries were so extreme she could not be visually identified when she arrived at the hospital.
Ms Melis said a burns specialist at the hospital had explained to Ms Chetty her injuries were likely not survivable, and laid out the long road ahead if she was to pull through.
He asked if she wanted strenuous efforts made to keep her alive if she deteriorated, the court heard.
"I want you to do all you can," she replied.
Ms Chetty died on January 31, 2014.
The inquest continues.
Originally published as Woman walked around with horror burns