Partner of Surjit Singh Chhokar tells court of murder aftermath

Surjit Singh Chhokar. Picture: Contributed
Surjit Singh Chhokar. Picture: Contributed
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A woman has told a murder trial how blood “flew out” of her partner who collapsed after telling her “they’ve stabbed me”.

Elizabeth Bryce said she watched from her living-room window as Surjit Singh Chhokar was attacked on his return from the Indian restaurant where he worked in Wishaw, North Lanarkshire.

Ronnie Coulter, 48, is accused of murdering Mr Chhokar outside Ms Bryce’s Garrion Street home on November 4 1998.

Ms Bryce told the High Court in Glasgow she grabbed a garden spade and ran outside to confront three men who were dragging her partner across the street, threatening to get the police.

The tearful witness said the men, who she identified as Ronnie Coulter, his nephew Andrew Coulter and David Montgomery, left the scene and her partner started walking towards her. She said: “That’s when he said ‘they’ve stabbed me’.

“He walked up to his car and he had his arms on top of the car and he put his head on his hands. The next thing I heard a horrible noise. The blood just flew out of him and he just fell. He flopped down and fell on the ground.

“I just didn’t believe it – he was dead. I was angry, confused, I wanted to do something but there was nothing I could do.”

The court heard Mr Chhokar worked as a cook at the Pink Turban and returned after his shift to Ms Bryce’s home some time after 11pm. She said she saw him get out of his car, carrying a bottle of Irn-Bru and take-away food, before the three men “ran him across the street”.

Coulter denies murdering Mr Chhokar by repeatedly attacking him with a knife or a similar weapon and a further charge of forging Mr Chhokar’s signature on a £100 giro cheque.

Ms Bryce said Mr Chhokar had spoken of a missing giro on the day of his death and, after making inquiries, told her he understood it had been cashed at the post office by Andrew Coulter, who the witness said she had “known since he was a baby”. She said she went to confront Andrew Coulter while Mr Chhokar was at work, telling him he would get into trouble. She said he told her: “If anything happens to me, Chhokar is getting it.”

Donald Findlay QC, representing Coulter, put it to the witness that neither she nor Mr Chhokar would have gone to the police about the missing giro because he was claiming benefit unlawfully while in work.

Under cross-examination, she agreed that her partner had frequently been violent towards her. She said: “He’d punch me, slap me, he’d fling things at me.”

Coulter is also charged with breaking into Mr Chhokar’s home at Caplaw Tower, Wishaw, on the day of his death and stealing a cooker.

He is further accused of attempting to defeat the ends of justice by destroying or disposing of a knife and clothing. He denies the charges.

The trial, before Lord Matthews, continues.