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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 September 2007, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Life for murder plot grandmother
Bachan Athwal
Bachan Athwal said she wanted to defend the family honour
A grandmother who ordered the so-called "honour killing" of her daughter-in-law has been jailed for life.

Bachan Athwal and her son Sukhdave, 43, arranged the murder of Surjit Athwal, 27, who vanished during a trip to India in 1998, the Old Bailey heard.

Bachan, 70, and her son, both of Hayes, west London, were found guilty of murder in July.

Surjit's brother, Jagdeesh Singh, criticised police in the UK and India for "inadequacies" in the inquiry.

Bachan must serve at least 20 years in jail and her son was jailed for a minimum of 27 years.

Judge Giles Forrester told them: "The pair of you decided that the so-called honour of your family members was worth more than the life of this young woman.

"You, Bachan, were head of that family. I have no doubt you exercised a controlling influence over other family members."

Victim had affair

During the trial jurors heard Surjit, who was originally from Coventry, vanished "off the surface of the earth" after attending a family wedding in Punjab with her mother-in-law, almost nine years ago.

Prosecutors claimed Bachan, who has 16 grandchildren, ordered Surjit's death at a family meeting after finding out she had been having an affair and wanted a divorce.

Surjit Athwal

Bachan, a mother-of-six, vowed a divorce would only take place "over my dead body".

She had boasted to her family she had got rid of Surjit by getting a relative to strangle her and throw her body into a river.

But it was years before her frightened relatives gathered the courage to contact the police to relate Bachan's claims.

The CPS said they were aware that a person was tried and acquitted of kidnap with intent in India.

Speaking after the sentencing Surjit's brother said the conviction and sentencing has been "a long time coming".

"Surjit's murderers have finally been punished after escaping justice for eight-and-a-half years."

Public inquiry call

He said the investigation had broken through "lies and official lapses which have obscured Surjit's murder for so long".

While praising detectives he said "the long journey of Surjit's case has exposed serious inadequacies in policing practise and government policy in the UK as well as in India where Surjit was murdered".

He called for a public inquiry into his sister's death and that of Banaz Mahmod whose father and brother were found guilty in June of her murder.

Det Ch Insp Clive Driscoll, who led the case, said the sentencing marked the end of a long road.

He said: "We have worked closely with Surjit's family, the defendant's extended family and the Sikh community to secure this conviction.

"For Surjit's family and friends, the pain of losing her in such a cruel way will continue, but I hope they are comforted by the fact that her killers are now behind bars."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Home video footage of Surjit Athwal



SEE ALSO
Missing wife 'wanted a divorce'
03 May 07 |  London

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