Breaking Bad 'inspired murder bid'
A lovestruck graphic designer tried to kill her magistrate mother by lacing her Diet Coke with lethal poison in a murder plot inspired by TV series Breaking Bad, a court has heard.
Kuntal Patel, 37, allegedly slipped her "controlling and selfish" mother Meena the deadly poison Abrin after she "forbade" her to marry her boyfriend.
Patel bought the poison, which is "much more poisonous" than Ricin, from a site on the dark web based in the US using the virtual currency bitcoins.
And she watched as her mother Meena, 60, who sits on the bench at Thames Magistrates' Court, drank the substance at her home in Stratford, East London last December, but survived.
The FBI in America launched an investigation and Kuntal, who works as a graphic designer for Barclays Bank in Canary Wharf, was arrested this January, jurors at London's Southwark Crown Court heard.
Jonathan Polnay, prosecuting, said that "to the outside world, the Patels must have seemed a highly respectable and happy family". But beneath this veneer of a happy and successful Hindu family, lay a tale of discord, bullying and abuse.
He warned jurors the evidence "is so extreme that if they were the plot of a Hollywood or Bollywood film, you would say they are far fetched'.
He went on: "The evidence will show that, in private, Meena Patel - the magistrate who worked in domestic violence and race relations - was not a nice woman at all.
"She would regularly use foul and abusive language, including highly racist language. She would, on occasions, be violent.
"She was highly manipulative and controlling - she would seek to control every aspect of her daughters' lives. And worst of all, she forbade Kuntal from marrying the man she loved - Niraj Kakad.
"Meena Patel was all of those things - manipulative, controlling and selfish. But she did not deserve to die."
He said that Kuntal concocted her murder plot so she could marry the man she loved.
He told jurors: "When Meena forbade Kuntal from marrying Niraj, rather than bringing shame on the family by trying to marry without her consent, - something which Meena would have done her best to sabotage - Kuntal set out in a calculated and pre-meditated fashion to murder her own mother.
"Inspired, in part, by the US television series Breaking Bad, she acquired a deadly toxin called Abrin, a close relation to Ricin, which you may have heard of. She acquired it over the 'dark web' from a vendor in the USA.
"She paid using bitcoins, a virtual, electronic currency, and used layer upon layer of encryption to try to cover her tracks.
"The deadly toxin arrived from the United States concealed in a wax candle. Kuntal secretly poured the Abrin into her mother's Diet Coke and watched her drink it - expecting her to die. But nothing happened."
He said the poison is 1,000 time less toxic if swallowed rather than inhaled or injected, and so the magistrate survived.
But undeterred, Patel set about getting hold of another, stronger sample of Abrin.
Appearing in the dock dressed all in black, Patel denies trying to murder her mother and acquiring a biological agent or toxin. She has pleaded guilty to two counts of attempting to acquire a biological agent or toxin last December.
Breaking Bad follows the story of chemistry teacher Walter White, who turns to cooking crystal meth with a former student after being diagnosed with cancer.
The court heard that privately-educated Kuntal first met her lover Mr Kakad through Shaadi.com, an internet dating service for the Asian community.
But her mother did not approve of their relationship, and allegedly locked her daughter in her home, beat her, and demanded she stop seeing him.
In a series of highly abusive messages she branded her daughter a "witch" and "f***ed up brain girl who cannot be my blood" for falling for Mr Kakad, who lived in America, the court heard.
In a desperate email to a friend, Kuntal branded her mother "evil" and said: "I told her how much I liked him and she started slapping me."
She added: "He is the best man I have ever met. He said he was going to propose to me.
"I'll never forgive her for what she has done to me. She has stolen my future away from me. I couldn't care less about my life anymore. I would prefer to be dead.
"My life is so worthless. She just shouts at me like a bulldog. There is no reason or logic with anything she does, apart from being a psycho b***h".
She added: "I'm stuck with that miserable f***er until she dies."
Meena was hell-bent on "wrecking" her daughter's chance of marriage, hacked her phone and emails and seized her credit cards in a bid to scupper her relationship, the court heard.
Despite the abuse, the couple got engaged in November 2012 and Kuntal hatched a plan to kill her mother, jurors heard. Mr Polnay said: "She took the view that she was not going to let her mother and family arguments stand in the way of her happiness."
He went on: "Kuntal was firm in her desire to marry Niraj and have children. She had pointed out on a number of occasions that she did not have time on her side.
"Meena's attitude was 'over my dead body'. And she was quite obviously a manipulative and controlling person who would not hesitate to do everything she could to wreck the chance of a happy marriage.
"It was around this point, we say, that Kuntal Patel made the decision that the best way to ensure she got what she wanted, happiness for herself, was by killing her mother."
Jurors heard that Kuntal used the fake name Headgear when she bought the poison for £900 over the internet from American Jesse Korff, who used the pseudonym Snowman.
But unknown to the pair, the website Black Market Reloaded was under surveillance by the FBI after an advert posted on it in September 2013 offered a Breaking Bad-style ricin poison.
Jurors heard she was inspired by a plot in episode 16 season 5 in Breaking Bad, in which someone is killed using ricin.
In messages she called Korff 'Heisenberg', the nickname of the main character in the show who abandons his career as a chemistry teacher to manufacture drugs. And she writes that "I've been watching too much Breaking Bad".
Mr Polnay said: "On 29 September (she downloads) season 5 episode 6 of Breaking Bad. In this episode ricin was used in the murder of one of the characters."
It is alleged Korff sent Kuntal Abrin, which is similar to ricin - but more deadly. Found in the seeds of rosary pea, it is highly toxic, and causes breathing difficulties, fever, coughing and sickness. Fluid builds in the lungs, eventually killing the person.
There is no antidote.
An advert for the drug on the website promised "they will die a very horrible death".
Mr Polnay said Kuntal meticulously planned her murder and, anxious to keep her distance from the Abrin, duped her friend Julie Wong into accepting the parcel with it in.
But in a "stroke of very bad luck for him", Julie's next door neighbour James Sutcliffe signed for the package.
In emails Kuntal nicknamed her illicit purchase Candle in the Wind - which the prosecutor insisted was not a reference the Elton John song in tribute to Princess Diana death but alludes to the candle which hid the poison.
When her mother survived the poisoning, an exasperated Kuntal confessed to her plot to the American poison seller, the court heard.
She wrote: "Something had definitely gone wrong somewhere as it is now early Saturday morning and still everything is normal.
"Yes target drank all of it. I made sure I watched her drink it all.
"I had to borrow money from friends to get this stuff from you because it's my last option.
"I can't be with the man I love because my mother doesn't like him. She is a bitter, miserable old woman and has been physically mean to me and my sister."
She goes on: "I can only be with him if she is out of the way." And she asked for another drug which is "tasteless and untraceable in autopsy" and would "not cause suspicion by cops or doctors".
Kuntal was arrested in January and told police she bought the Abrin in order to commit suicide because her mother had forbidden her from marrying her boyfriend.
But she claimed that when the parcel carrying the candle arrived, she became scared and threw it away.
Police combed through her computer and iPhone, and discovered she had googled "how to murder using poison", "how to create botulism" and "how to murder someone without getting caught".
And, after she was remanded in custody, she allegedly confessed to her mother that she tried to kill her during a conversation in prison carried out in Gujarati - to evade listening prison staff.
She allegedly told her mother: "I was going to kill you and Amba Ma (a Hindu Goddess) saw it, that's why she has punished me."
In another conversation it is alleged her mother said: "You are in prison at present because of him." But Kuntal allegedly replies: "Because of me - I did put that in your coke."
The case was adjourned until 10am tomorrow.