Punjabi woman’s murder case nears verdict in Canada

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS
Saturday, December 11, 2010

VANCOUVER - Defence and prosecution lawyers Friday finished their arguments in a sensational Indo-Canadian murder case here in which a Punjabi man is accused of strangulating his pregnant wife and burning her body four years ago.

A former school teacher, Mukhtiar Singh Panghali, 38, faces second-degree murder charges in the death of his wife, Manjit Panghali, and then burning her body in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey in October 2006.

Thirty-year-old Manjit Panghali, who married Mukhtiar in 1996, was four-month pregnant with her second child when she went missing on October 18, 2006. The couple were reportedly having problems in their marital relationship.

Manjit had gone for her pre-natal yoga class and was never seen again, though her car was found abandoned.

A week later, her charred body was located at a place frequented by revelers for drinking and making bonfires.

The suspicion immediately fell on the husband and her brother-in-law Sukhwinder who lived with the couple.

According to the prosecution lawyer, Mukhtiar killed his wife when she returned from her yoga class, burnt her body at the said place, and delayed reporting the murder to police by as many as 26 hours after she reportedly went missing.

In his closing arguments, prosecution lawyer Dennis Murray said that a “clear picture of deceit” emerges from the behaviour of the accused immediately after the murder of his wife.

He said there was enough “evidence of concealment” against the accused because “there has to be a reason to burn the body” of his wife.

“The accused was not telling the truth,” the prosecution lawyer told the court.

According to the testimony of the pathologist who performed the autopsy, the pregnant woman was manually strangulated to death, and then the accused might have tried to burn her body to remove all evidence.

But defence lawyer Michael Tammen countered the prosecution case, saying that it is based only on circumstantial evidence. He said the evidence of the pathologist “is the only evidence in this case as to the cause of death.”

From this, he said, it cannot be concluded that the accused had any intention to kill his wife.

A teacher at a local school, Manjit left behind a three-year-old daughter Maya, now seven.

This is one of quite a few cases in which Indo-Canadian men have been accused of killing their wives.

Judge Heather Holmes will now weigh in the arguments in her verdict.

(Gurmukh Singh can be contacted at gurmukh.s@ians.in)

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

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