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Friday, 24 November, 2000, 14:58 GMT
Trial told of 'stabbing' phone call
Chhokar picture against High Court in Glasgow
The Chhokar trial is at the High Court in Glasgow
A man alleged to have murdered an Indian waiter has said he learned of the stabbing in a late-night phone call from his co-accused.

David Montgomery, 23, told the High Court in Glasgow he was "shocked" to hear a knife had been used to attack 32-year-old Surjit Singh Chhokar on 4 November 1998.

Mr Montgomery, who is on trial with 19-year-old Andrew Coulter, admitted he had been at the scene of the attack but thought Mr Chhokar had only been punched and struck with a bat.

The two accused have lodged a special defence of incrimination in which they blame Andrew Coulter's uncle Ronnie Coulter, 32, for the killing.

Do you accept that you drove Surjit Singh Chhokar's killer to the area that night?

Advocate-depute Sean Murphy, prosecuting
Mr Montgomery said he had gone home to bed after the incident, which happened at about 11.30pm, thinking Mr Chhokar had gone back into his house.

A few hours later he was woken by Andrew Coulter telephoning him with the message: "Ronnie's went and stabbed him."

The next morning Mr Montgomery said he was "shocked" when he discovered that Mr Chhokar had died.

He told the court he had driven Andrew and Ronnie Coulter to Overtown in Lanarkshire some time after 11pm to discuss a giro cheque which Andrew Coulter had cashed in Mr Chhokar's name.

Street scuffle

Mr Montgomery said he understood that the pair had had an arrangement over the cheque. The visit to the home of Mr Chhokar's girlfriend, Elizabeth Bryce, had been to tell her about it.

Mr Chhokar arrived at Miss Bryce's home just after the three and a scuffle immediately broke out in which Andrew was knocked to the ground, the court heard.

"Chhokar was running back away from Ronnie up to the level of the car and he was just getting into him," Mr Montgomery said.

Chhokar death scene
Mr Chhokar died in Overtown
"I was going to punch him because he had hit Andrew, but he was swinging a bottle and I didn't want hit with it."

Mr Montgomery said Ronnie Coulter appeared to punch Mr Chhokar four or five times, following him up the street as Mr Chhokar tried to back away, before suddenly running away.

Andrew Coulter then hit Mr Chhokar with a bat before the two left in Mr Montgomery's car.

He agreed with Paul McBride QC, defending Andrew Coulter, that he would not have been able to see if Ronnie Coulter was holding a small knife in his hand as he "punched" Mr Chhokar.

'Bent on violence'

But he said he had not seen any knife on the night and believed as he left the scene that Mr Chhokar had suffered "only minor injuries".

Mr Montgomery denied when questioned by advocate-depute Sean Murphy that the three men had gone to Overtown bent on violence and had hidden in wait for Mr Chhokar to arrive.

Mr Murphy asked: "On any view, do you accept that you drove Surjit Singh Chhokar's killer to the area that night?"

He replied: "Yes."

Mr Montgomery was acquitted by trial judge Lord Bonomy of a charge of attempting perverting the course of justice by having his car valeted and sold a few days after Mr Chhokar's death.

The trial continues.

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See also:

22 Nov 00 | Scotland
Murder trial hears from drug addict
20 Nov 00 | Scotland
'Heart wound killed waiter'
15 Nov 00 | Scotland
Waiter 'dragged away' to his death
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