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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 May 2007, 17:53 GMT 18:53 UK
Missing wife 'wanted a divorce'
Surjit Kaur Athwal
Surjit Athwal's body has never been found
A young wife allegedly murdered during a trip to India was having an affair and wanted a divorce, a court was told.

Surjit Athwal, 27, went missing in 1998 after travelling to Punjab with her mother in law Bachan Athwal.

It was claimed the 70-year-old had said she would only allow Surjit to divorce her son "over her dead body", the Old Bailey heard.

Mrs Athwal's husband Sukhdave Athwal, 43, and his mother, from Hayes, west London, both deny murder.

The court heard she was having an affair with a married man and had started divorce proceedings.

The prosecution alleges the mother and son arranged the murder because family honour was at stake.

'Culturally inappropriate'

Surjit Athwal's brother Jangdeesh Singh said her mother-in-law had asked him to persuade his sister against divorcing.

"She was very emphatic that it was over her dead body that this divorce would be allowed," he told the court.

"She said nothing about consequences but that it would be over her dead body that this divorce would be allowed."

Mr Singh said she told him divorce was considered "culturally inappropriate and unacceptable".

But he said his sister was "unhappy", "distressed" and "very much taking about divorce".

Mrs Athwal was accompanying her mother-in-law to India when she disappeared. Her body has never been found.

The trial continues.


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