Man guilty of 1998 murder of waiter Surjit Singh Chhokar

Ronnie Coulter, right, was found guilty of murdering Surjit Singh Chhokar.
Ronnie Coulter, right, was found guilty of murdering Surjit Singh Chhokar.
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A man has been found guilty of murdering waiter Surjit Singh Chhokar more than 17 years ago in a retrial under double jeopardy laws.

Ronnie Coulter, 48, was convicted by a majority of stabbing the 32-year-old as he returned from work in Wishaw, North Lanarkshire, on November 4 1998.

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

A string of further charges, including an accusation that Coulter forged Mr Chhokar’s signature on a £100 giro cheque on the day of his death, were dropped during the trial.

Coulter denied the charges and blamed his nephew Andrew Coulter and David Montgomery for the murder. Giving evidence the pair 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 case is the second to be retried after Scotland’s centuries-old double jeopardy law was reformed in 2011, enabling the conviction of World’s End killer Angus Sinclair in 2014.

Coulter was previously acquitted when he stood trial in 1999 and Andrew Coulter and Mr Montgomery were also acquitted following a subsequent trial.

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

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

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

The TUC said it was pleased and relieved that justice had finally been done.

Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) Deputy General Secretary Dave Moxham said: “The STUC is pleased and relieved that the two decade long battle for justice for Surjit Singh Chhokar and his family has been finally concluded.

“The late Darshan Singh Chhokar and his family never gave up hope for justice in the face of a series of obstacles and judicial failings. Justice has now been done.”

Outside the High Court in Glasgow lawyer Aamer Anwar, flanked by the Chhokar family, read out a statement.

Mr Anwar said: “Today’s verdict is not a cause for celebration, but relief that finally justice has been done.

“For any parent the loss of a child shatters the soul, but no one can imagine the devastating toll on a family having to campaign for justice for nearly 18 years, but did Surjit’s killers really think his life was so cheap that his family would just walk away.

“At the end of the second trial in 2000, I stood on the steps of this court accusing our justice system of acting like a ‘gentleman’s colonial club’” of being “arrogant, unaccountable and institutionally racist;’ But today the Chhokar family want to thank the prosecutors, Crown Office and Police Scotland for their unwavering commitment to justice. They have shown themselves at their finest.”

Mr Aanwar praised those witnesses who had the courage to came forward and added: The Chhokar family will always be grateful to those who had the courage to come forward such as Amelia Clark, Noreen McPolland and Liz Bryce in whose arms Surjit died that night.”

The lawyer added: “Without these key witnesses, Ronnie Coulter would still be free to roam the streets.”

He concluded by mentioning Surjit’s late father Darshan Singh Chhokar and said: “There is real sorrow that Mr Chhokar is not here to see justice, but I hope that both he and Surjit are now finally at peace.”