Law chief to meet family seeking justice for son after 13 years of pain

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland is to meet the Chhokar family. Picture: PA
Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland is to meet the Chhokar family. Picture: PA
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Scotland’s top law officer is to meet the family of a Scot murdered more than 13 years ago, it has been announced.

Surjit Singh Chhokar was stabbed to death outside the home he shared with his girlfriend in Overtown, Lanarkshire, on 4 November, 1998.

The murder sparked controversy after the failure of authorities to secure a conviction for his killing despite the arrests of three men and two subsequent trials.

Now the waiter’s family is to meet Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland and Solicitor General Lesley Thomson to seek a fresh investigation over the murder.

Mr Chhokar’s parents, Darshan, 73, and his wife Gurdev, 72, have suffered deteriorating health in the years since they first campaigned for justice for their son. Their daughter, Manjit Sangha, appealed for the authorities to act before her parents die.

Reform of Scotland’s centuries-old double jeopardy law, which came into force at the end of last year, means the men originally accused of the murder could face a retrial, though the Crown Office said it was too early to speculate on the case.

A spokesman for the Crown Office said: “The Lord Advocate has spoken with Aamer Anwar, the family’s solicitor, and confirmed that the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General would be pleased to meet with the family. Arrangements are now being put in place.”

Ms Sangha said: “All we want from them is to have a look at the case again. And do something so my parents can have peace of mind before they die.

“We lost everything on that night when Surjit died. Then we had a chance of justice when the three men were charged. But it’s been 13 years. We’re still standing at the same place 13 years on. No justice has been given to us.”

Mr Chhokar was originally born in Punjab, India, before the family later moved to Scotland from Middlesex in 1986.

In 1998, he was returning to his home with a carry-out meal when he was attacked just after getting out of his car in Garrion Street. Three men set upon the 32-year-old waiter and he died from a stab wound to his heart.

Nobody has ever been convicted of the murder. In 1999, Ronnie Coulter was acquitted of the murder after blaming his nephew, Andrew Coulter, and David Montgomery. Those men stood trial in 2000 and claimed Ronnie Coulter was responsible, and were also acquitted.

Two official inquiries were ordered in the wake of the original acquittals at trial. One report, by Dr Raj Jandoo, accused the police, procurator fiscal and Crown Office of “institutional racism”. The second report, by Sir Anthony Campbell, said racist attitudes did not affect the decisions made during the trial, but criticised the Crown for not prosecuting Ronnie Coulter and Andrew Coulter together.

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

Ms Sangha added: “They know they made those mistakes and they can sort those mistakes out now. They have an excellent chance and they should take it.

“The past 13 years have been very hard. My parents’ health, especially my dad’s health, has gone really downhill. And still after 13 years we have a wee bit of hope that they will be brought back to the court and we will get some justice.”