Surjit Singh Chhokar killer to be sentenced for 1998 murder after retrial

A KILLER is to be sentenced for the murder of Surjit Singh Chhokar almost 18 years ago.

Ronnie Coulter was found guilty of the 1998 murder of Surjit Singh Chhokar. PIcture: John Devlin/TSPL

Ronnie Coulter was found guilty of stabbing the 32-year-old in a retrial under double jeopardy laws.

The attack happened as Mr Chhokar returned from his work at an Indian restaurant in Wishaw, North Lanarkshire, on November 4 1998.

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Coulter, 48, was previously acquitted when he stood trial in 1999 for the murder but was convicted by a majority when the case became only the second to return to court since Scotland’s centuries-old double jeopardy law was reformed in 2011.

Coulter’s nephew Andrew Coulter and David Montgomery were also acquitted of murder when they went on trial for the same crime in 2000.

Two official inquiries were ordered after the original trials over Mr Chhokar’s death. One made allegations of ‘’institutional racism’’.

Following publication of the reports in 2001, then Lord Advocate Colin Boyd QC said the Chhokar family had been failed by the police and prosecution services.

The trial heard Coulter, his nephew and Mr Montgomery went to see Mr Chhokar on the night following a row over a stolen Giro cheque.

After an altercation, Mr Chhokar collapsed in front of his partner Liz Bryce.

Coulter had denied the charges and blamed Andrew Coulter and Mr Montgomery for the murder. Giving evidence at the third trial, Andrew Coulter and Mr Montgomery admitted being present at the scene but denied murder.

Ronnie Coulter’s sister Margaret Chisholm told the court he told her he had got away with the perfect murder.

The jury took about 10 hours over three days to find Coulter, of Overtown, Wishaw, guilty following a four-week trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

The Chhokar family, who led a long fight for justice with lawyer Aamer Anwar, thanked supporters when the guilty verdict was delivered, and said they felt only relief.

In his last interview before his death in November 2015, Mr Chhokar’s father Darshan said his only wish was that those responsible for his son’s death ‘’face justice’’.

Mr Anwar, who began campaigning for justice for the family as a law student, said: “Surjit was a loving son, father and brother who was lucky to have two stubborn parents who refused to be silenced as they fought for justice as a right and not a privilege.’’

He said the family have ‘’placed victim’s rights at the heart of a modern criminal justice system, which will be their legacy for generations to come’’.