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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 September 2007, 12:28 GMT 13:28 UK
Family devastated by Surjit's death
Jagdeesh Singh
Mr Singh said the Athwals tried to erase all memory of Surjit
The family of Surjit Athwal have released an impact statement which was read out in court before the sentencing of Bachan Athwal and her son Sukhdave.

The pair were sentenced at the Old Bailey for arranging the murder of Surjit, 27.

In the statement, her brother Jagdeesh Singh said the Athwals tried to eliminate all traces of her.

Visitors to their home in Hayes were told not to mention her name, and her children, who were aged nine months and six when she disappeared, were told she had gone away.

"In life, as in death, Surjit was the victim of the Athwals' venomous anger," said Mr Singh.

She had no rights, not even to complain
Jagdeesh Singh

"Surjit's reputation and disappearance was rubbished both to us and amongst the local Sikh community in Hayes and Southall.

"Bachan and Sukhdave and the Athwal family sought to rid the world around them of all discussion and mention of Surjit.

"All signs, memories and photos of her were removed from Surjit's own home.

"Relatives visiting the Athwals were told never to mention Surjit. Sukhdave proceeded to replace her with new wives and partners."

Surjit, who would now have been 36, had "high hopes of getting out of her tragic marriage", Mr Singh said.

"Surjit was punished by the Athwals for standing up to their suffocating control and being assertive.

"The Athwals' perception was that she belonged to the Athwals and everything was to be done the Athwal way.

"She had no rights, not even to complain."

'Official apathy'

Surjit's disappearance left her family devastated and "stricken with anxiety".

Surjit Athwal
Authorities were slow to investigate the disappearance

Mr Singh said they were "disorientated" by the fact no body was ever found.

Her family said they battled with the "incompetence and disinterest" of the Indian police, the "apathy" of the Foreign Office and the "slow" initial response from the Metropolitan Police.

"The Athwals had managed to murder my sister and it appeared that with their manipulation and planning, they were going to get away with it. Surjit's murderers were going about their life as if nothing had happened."

Following the murder, Bachan and Sukhdave "set about creating a fog of malicious lies and misinformation about Surjit", claiming she was "prone to going off with men" and probably with a boyfriend in India, Mr Singh said.

"Remorselessly and cruelly, they both fed us lie after lie, all in a sadistic attempt to cover their crime."


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