Special to The Tribune
Shyam Bhatia in London
The Kapurthala man convicted of orchestrating his wife’s murder in London has been revealed as an illegal immigrant, guilty of identity theft, who travelled to the UK on a false Indian passport in 1994.
Kawaljit Singh Aulakh, who assumed the identity of his younger brother Harpreet, will have to serve a minimum of 28 years in jail for his role in ordering his accomplices to hack his wife Geeta to death because she had the temerity to ask him for a divorce.
His two accomplices were 30-year-old Jaswant Singh Dhillon from Ilford in East London and Sher Singh, aged 19, also from Kapurthala. Each has been told he would serve a minimum of 22 years in jail. The jury has been unable to reach a verdict on the fourth defendant, also named Harpreet Singh. He is to be sent for a re-trial.
Lawyers believe that Sher Singh was specially flown over to London last July because Aulakh, also known as Sunny, believed he was more than capable of wielding the machete that was used to slice off Geeta’s hand in the process of killing her.
Information made available following the end of the trial shows that Aulakh assumed the identity of his younger brother Harpreet -- who has since died -- to facilitate his entry to the UK in 1994. He was 23 at the time but claimed to be only 16, his younger brother’s age, because British immigration officers were deemed to be more sympathetic to allowing entry to younger visitors from abroad.
He met his wife-to-be, whose family originates from Gorya near Jalandhar, at a London bus stop when she was just 17 years old. Within a few months after he had persuaded her to elope, the couple ran away first to Belgium and then to Holland, where they got married before returning to the UK.
Although the couple had two children, the marriage soon turned sour and Geeta was the repeated victim of both psychological abuse and domestic violence until she plucked up the courage last year to start divorce proceedings against her unemployed, charas-smoking and alcoholic husband.
For his part, Aulakh convinced himself that his wife was having an affair.
Prosecuting lawyer Aftab Jafferjee told the court during the six-week trial, “She ultimately decided she had a life to lead, but away from him. Harpreet Aulakh's reaction displayed a chilling belief, almost certainly culturally rooted in male unaccountability.”
Aulakh went on to warn his wife, “If I can't have you, then no one can.”
London’s Old Bailey Court also heard how Aulakh then pleaded with Geeta not to divorce him until he managed to get a British passport before his visa expired in 2012. “When Geeta started the divorce proceedings, he saw his chance to remain here disappearing and wanted her dead because it would give him more chance of being allowed to stay here and look after his two sons,” said the murdered woman’s sister Anita Shinh.
“We believe that the murder of my sister was planned in India and Sher Singh was offered £5,000 (Rs 3.5 lakh) to come over here and kill Geeta. All he had to do was sign up for a college course and come in on student visa. But he had no intention ever to study.”
The murder was planned several months after the couple separated a year ago last January. Nine days before Geeta’s murder last November, Aulakh was caught on CCTV purchasing the 14-inch machete that was used to kill his wife. “Buying that machete was just like going shopping for food for Sunny,” Geeta’s sister told the local British media. “It meant nothing to him -- the whole thing was just a joke.”
It was the CCTV footage and admission of guilt by co-conspirator Dhillon that helped to convict Aulakh. Dhillon led the police to a canal where the murder weapon and bloodstained clothes had been dumped.
Subsequent police analysis revealed the DNA of both Geeta and Sher Singh on the machete and the blood-stained clothes. Aulakh denied any role in killing his wife and claimed she was the victim of a gang that was actually targeting him. On the day of the murder, he tried to have an alibi by deliberately visiting a local pub from where he made a number of telephone calls to his wife’s mobile. During the trial, he smiled and blew kisses to his murdered wife’s family.
Commenting on the murder, the trial judge, Justice Saunders, said: “It was a pointless, cold-blooded killing of a woman about whom no one, save… Aulakh, had a bad word to say.