Shane Cochrane jailed for killing Sri Lankan Monash University student Nisali Perera

A killer driver has wept as he was sentenced to a decade behind bars over the death of a Sri Lankan student, who told her parents she would be safe in Australia.

Shane Cochrane, 38, wiped away tears as he learned he would have to serve at least eight years in jail after hitting Nisali Perera with his car in August last year.

WARNING: This article contains details some readers will find distressing.

Ms Perera, 20, was on her way home and in the final semester of her degree at Monash University when she was struck as she crossed Wellington Road, near the university’s Clayton campus.

Before she left Sri Lanka, she had told her parents that Australia was a “very safe country” and that “she could walk on the road at any time of the day”.

But Victoria’s County Court heard that Ms Perera could not be shielded from Cochrane, who fled in the moments after her death.

Judge Liz Gaynor said Cochrane had “irrevocably shattered” Ms Perera’s family.

“This is the third time you have fled the scene … this time leaving behind the body of a young woman you had killed,” she said.

Nisali Perera was walking home from Monash University’s Clayton campus when she was struck.(Facebook)

Court documents reveal that the lights on Wellington Road had been red for 12 seconds and Ms Perera, who was using the pedestrian crossing, was just 2 metres from safety when she was struck.

The force of the crash flung her almost 60 metres, killing her instantly.

Cochrane fled the scene and then abandoned the car, which was later found near an abandoned church.

In her victim impact statement Ms Perera’s mother, Kamal, told the court that she felt guilty for her daughter’s death.

“When she gained entrance to the university of Monash, in Australia, we were in two minds [on] whether to let her go from our care and protection,” she said.

“[The] irony of the situation is that Nisali had a strong belief that Australia was a very safe country and she could walk on the road at any time of the day.”

“She had to end her life in the same country of which she had immense faith.”

A composite image combining a police image of a man with short hair and an image from CCTV of the same man.
Cochrane had a history of driving and drug offences, the court heard.(Supplied: Victoria Police)

The court heard Cochrane, a father-of-one, started using drugs when he was 16 and had appeared in court on 30 occasions for charges like careless driving, unlicensed driving, speeding, dangerous driving and drug use.

In 2013, Cochrane left the scene of a crash while driving an unregistered car.

In 2018, and under the influence of the drug GHB, he stopped in the middle of a highway.

Also in the same year, and having already lost his license, he led police on a chase, reaching an estimated 200 kilometres per hour.

A small dark blue car which has been badly damaged in a crash and has a cracked windscreen.
After hitting Ms Perera, Cochrane fled the scene and dumped the car near an abandoned church.(Supplied: Victoria Police)

Cochrane has already spent 355 days behind bars, meaning he could be eligible for parole in about seven years.

He has been disqualified from getting a licence for five years.

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Monash student Nisali Perera killed crossing road

A man who hit and killed a 20-year-old student as she was crossing the road will spend at least eight years in jail.

When Shane Cochrane hit Nisali Perera as she was crossing the road, the impact was so severe it flung her 60 metres through the air and smashed both of his front headlights – but he still fled the scene and left her to die.

Judge Liz Gaynor sentenced the 38-year-old to 10 years’ jail with eight years non-parole in the County Court of Victoria on Tuesday.

On August 29, 2019, Ms Perera waited for the pedestrian light to turn green before she crossed Wellington Road, Clayton, at the intersection with Scenic Boulevard.

The Monash University business and commerce student had convinced her Sri Lankan parents to let her go to university in Australia, which she promised them was a safe country.

She was only 2.3 metres from safety when Cochrane ran a red light at 9.40pm and killed her instantly.

A witness told police he saw her “falling from the sky”, such was the force of the hit.

Cochrane kept driving, with his girlfriend Lauren Hindes in the passenger’s seat, and ditched the smashed-up Mazda at an abandoned church – where a trail of fluid leading to the vehicle was spotted by police.

Judge Gaynor said it was “incredibly distressing” to hear of the impact of the crime on Ms Perera’s parents.

Her mother Kamal Perera told the court she had been in two minds about letting Nisali go to Australia – but gave her blessing for Nisali to leave the haven of her parents’ home so she could follow her dreams.

She said she was now wracked by guilt and despaired to think of growing old without her only daughter.

“I am 52 years of age and I don’t have any hope of another child,” she told the court.

“My only child is gone for good. Words are not good enough.”

Judge Gaynor said when Cochrane abandoned the smashed-up car they left Cochrane’s girlfriend’s name tag in the vehicle as well as a mobile phone belonging to a friend.

The driver had taken ice and GHB the night before, as was his daily habit.

Cochrane sobbed quietly as he listened to the judge detail his extensive criminal history. He had been before a court 30 times with three instances of fleeing the scene of an accident, including a 200 km/hr police chase that ended in him colliding with another vehicle.

She said he had a childhood that could “only be described as tragic”.

His father and abusive stepmother were alcoholics and his father died when he was 12, leaving him in the hands of his mother, an intravenous drug user who would take him to do his homework in the car outside the police station while she checked in for bail.

Judge Gaynor said Cochrane’s mother was in and out of prison and by the age of 12 his home had been raided by police a dozen times, and he had to look after and feed himself.

He “plunged” into a daily drug and alcohol habit around age 19 to cope with guilt after his mother died from drugs while he was home. A court-appointed psychologist said Cochrane self-medicated with alcohol, ice and GHB because of PTSD from his upbringing.

He has no contact with his seven-year-old son.

Judge Gaynor told him she had sympathy for the hardships and emotional trauma he had faced, but “you are now responsible for the death of a beloved only daughter who was the centre of her parents’ world”.

“This is the third time you have fled the scene of an accident, this time leaving behind the body of a young woman you had killed,” she said.

Cochrane pleaded to guilty to culpable driving causing death, failing to render assistance at the scene of an accident where a person has been killed, driving while disqualified, fraudulently using a number plate, and driving an unregistered vehicle.

Ms Hindes has been charged with assist an offender and her case is before the court.

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