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Read Opinion: Do we think our culture is a great culture, when we are enforcing daughter-in-law to live like a slave under Us.

NRI Mother,70 and her son found guilty of "honour killing"
Facing life sentences

UK, May 03, 2007
Gurdarshan Kaur

NRI Bachan Kaur Athwal, Mother-in-law, 70, and son Sukhdave Singh Athwal, 43, of Willow Tree Lane, Hayes, west London, were convicted of murder Surjit Kaur Athwal, 27, customs officer. She was a wife of Sukhdave Singh Athwal and a mother of two children.

A British court called the murder was a "honour killing" and facing life sentences. Michael Worsley, QC, for the prosecution said, " When Bachan Athwal learnt that her daughter-in-law wanted a divorce, Bachan Athwal called a family meeting to discuss her killing. "Family honour was at stake,"

Michael further said, Bachan was in a matriarchal position with all the authority that goes with it in a tight-knit community. It was hanging over the family - something that would be disgraceful to it.

The Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll said, "I would like to pay tribute to the bravery of the witnesses, whose information and co-operation with us has resulted in the outcome today, I hope that this demonstrates that police will deal with any witnesses that come forward sensitively and that they will be fully supported. The family members then revealed that Bachan Athwal had discussed "getting rid" of her daughter-in-law."

Mr Worsley said, "The other members of the family revealed the secret. "They were frightened that if they told anybody, the same sort of thing might happen to them."

Sarbjit Athwal, another daughter-in-law said, "They were going to get rid of Surjit. They were going to take her to India and get rid of her."

The police discovered that the Heathrow airport customs worker had intended to return, as signalled by her intent to buy a house in London with her brother to start a new life.

Bachan Athwal and her son Sukhdave Singh Athwal were originally arrested on conspiracy to murder on May 22, 2000 after forged documents.

Bachan Athwal, 70, who has 16 grandchildren:

  • As Bachan Athwal was led away from the court, she burst into tears and by waving her hands at the jury, screamed "liars" and "lies".
  • Bachan Athwal claiming that her daughter-in-law had told her she was not returning in the UK in order to live in Delhi with her boyfriend.
  • Bachan vowed that a divorce could only take place "over my dead body".
Sukhdave Athwal, 43, Husband
  • Sukhdave forged letters purporting to be from the Metropolitan Police and designed to throw Indian counterparts off the scent.
  • Sukhdave Athwal had taken out a £100,000 life insurance policy on his wife the day she left for India in 1998. In 2004 her name was fraudulently removed from property deeds to the family home.

Micky Singh, of the Metropolitan Police Sikh Association, added: "The outcome of the trial sends out a clear message to those that hide behind Sikhism to justify their horrendous crimes."

Surjit Athwal's family said, a guilty verdict has brought the struggle and pain of nine years to a positive conclusion.

Bachan Athwal, 70 and her son were then rearrested in November 2005 with their charges amended to murder.

They will be sentenced in September.

The Ministry of Justice announced on Thursday that new powers on forced marriages had received Royal Assent. Under the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act, courts can make orders to remove a victim from a situation where a forced marriage has or is about to take place

UK NRI mother of two murdered by mother-in-law's brother in India

UK, May 03, 2007
Gurdarshan Kaur

NRI, Surjit Kaur Athwal, 27, traveled to India on Dec. 03, 1998 along with mother-in law Bachan, 70, to attend family marriage but within a few days of arriving in the Punjab she completely disappeared from the surface of the Earth.

Surjit was murdered by her mother-in-law and husband after disgracing her Indian family by having an affair with fellow customs officer Harry Grewal and she also announced she wanted a divorce, the Old Bailey heard. The pair, both from Hayes in West London-deny murder and conspiracy to murder.

"The Crown suggests she was strangled in India."

Mr Worsley said a family member had testified that Bachan had returned to England and "said that was what happened".

She said Bachan's brother Darshan had strangled Surjit, he added.

The brother, who lives in a rural area of the Punjab, has never been charged, added the prosecutor.

Mr Worsley said the two accused began a cover-up soon after Surjit's brother reported her disappearance.

They wrote to Scotland Yard and the Indian authorities, trying to get the investigation into her disappearance called off.

Sukhdave even forged letters from British police to their Indian counterparts, trying to suggest Surjit was at risk from her own father, to throw them off the scent, it was alleged.

The two accused also allegedly forged documents to remove Surjit's claim to a share of the family home. But it was years before the police had enough evidence to charge the pair with murder.

Mr Worsley said: "This matter came to light as late as it did because some members of the family who knew the truth of what had happened, were frightened.

"They were frightened that if they told anybody, the same sort of thing might happen to them as they believed happened to the victim.

Her husband, a minibus driver at Heathrow, quickly remarried, and is alleged to have forged Surjit's signature to seize ownership of their house.

Surjit had two daughters, one was seven, the other just a few months old when Surjit went missing. She was working as customs officer at Heathrow.

In 2000 Mr Athwal, his mother and two other relatives were arrested and questioned about the case but subsequently released without charge.

The case continues.

Courtesy: Brother of Surjit, Jagdeesh Singh, UK

· 3rd December 1998: Surjit's leaves (with mother-in-law) on two week visit to Panjab, from Heathrow Airport (London). Due to return on 18th December 1998.

· 18th December 1998: Mother-in-law returns without Surjit. Dhillon family in Coventry immediately begin inquiries with all British airports and many airlines to find out about Surjit. No information available.

· 19th December 1998: Surjit's brother, Jagdeesh Singh, goes to the in-law family in Hayes, west London; to talk to them about Surjit's puzzling and worrying 'disappearance'.

· 20th December 1998: Dhillon family contacts Bob Ainsworth MP to seek assistance. He communicates information to British Foreign Office, London.

· 21st December 1998: Jagdeesh Singh (brother) contacts Metropolitan Police about Surjit's mysterious and suspicious disappearance. Metropolitan Police inquiries follow.

· February 1999: Surjit's husband divorces from Surjit, telling the courts she has 'deserted'.

· March 1999: Surjit's father goes to Panjab (India) to press for police inquiry into Surjit's disappearance. Contentious and limited Indian police investigation ensues. Father makes two further visits to Panjab to push Indian police investigation. Indian police prosecute 2 suspects, but results in acquittals.

· May 2000 : Metropolitan Police arrest mother-in-law and husband on 'suspicion of conspiracy to murder'. Subject to 24 hour questioning, and released without charge. Metropolitan Police issue a £10,000 reward for information.

· August 2000: Dhillon family meet with British Foreign Office representatives to discuss case, and urge positive action by British Foreign Minister.

· September 2000: British High Commission (New Delhi) writes letter of concern on 'lack of progress' in Indian police investigation, to Ministry of External Affairs (India). Metropolitan Police sends two officers to Panjab to investigate.

· January 2001 : Dhillon family members meet with Barones Patricia Scotland (Junior Foreign Office Minister) to discuss case. Dhillon family raise ongoing concerns about British government's lack of action and double-standards approach on Surjit's case.

· December 2002: 3,000 National public petition handed into 10 Downing Street, urging British Prime Minister to give Surjit's case serious and equal attention. Public candle-light vigil held outside 10 Downing Street, marking 4th anniversary of Surjit's disappearance.

· January 2003: British High Commission (New Delhi) writes letter to Ministry of External Affairs (India), asking for an investigation into Surjit's case by the Central Bureau of Investigation (India).

· April 2003: Surjit's brother's wife (Paramjeet Kaur) goes on fact-finding mission to Panjab. Visits the village where Surjit was last seen alive. Distributes leaflets to local residents about £10,000 reward for information.

· May 2003: BBC documentary broadcast on Surjit's case.

· June 2003: John McDonnell MP (Hayes & Harlington) initiates parliamentary motion calling for Jack Straw's direct intervention. Motion signed by 36 MPs over coming months.

· July 2003: Jagdeesh Singh (brother) meets with Baroness Symons (Junior Foreign Office Minister) to discuss case. Jagdeesh urges positive intervention by British government and stresses need for senior ministerial action by British Foreign Minister. Reiterates long running call for meeting with Jack Straw, Senior British Foreign Minister.

· September 2003: Jack Straw agrees to meet with Dhillon family to discuss Surjit's case.

· 6th November 2003: Jack Straw meets with Jagdeesh Singh and others. Jack Straw makes committment to pursue Surjit's case hereon at senior Ministerial level, and communicate directly with Indian Prime Minsiter and Indian Foreign Minister on the case. He will seek investigation through Central Bureau of Investigation (India).






BachanAthwal, 70

The grandmother and her son had conspired to kill the 27-year-old after she "disgraced" them by having an affair with another man after difficulties in her marriage to Sukhdave Athwal.

Surjit Kaur Athwal, 27, customs officer, a mother of two, was lured to India on the pretext of attending family weddings. Once there, she was allegedly strangled.

She, a vivacious, westernised woman was just 16 when she met Sukhdave Singh Athwal on their wedding day in 1988.

Husband Sukhdave Athwal, 43