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'Family of Vancouver teen's killer paid $150,000 to help him flee country'

Vanvcouver Desi   March 30, 2013
First Published: 15:30 IST(30/3/2013) | Last Updated: 17:30 IST(30/3/2013)

The family of murderer Ninderjit Singh colluded with him in his efforts to evade police, paying $150,000 so he could obtain illegal documents in the United States.

After Singh fatally shot Vancouver teen and ex- girlfriend Poonam Randhawa, he fled to California, where he eluded police for the next 12 years.

At his sentence hearing on Wednesday, Crown counsel Sandy Cunningham said that while in New York state, Singh obtained the necessary documents to become a different person.

"His family paid $150,000 to obtain the illegally forged identification," Cunningham told BC Supreme Court justice Bruce Butler.

"With those forged documents he was able to get a US social security number and other documents. He then went to Arizona where he fraudulently obtained a driver's licence."

After the murder, police spoke to Singh's family but got no cooperation from them as to his whereabouts, said the prosecutor.

"Every single member of his family claimed to have no idea where he was and also denied ever having contact with him," said Cunningham.

"They lied to police and border officials again and again, it turned out. The entire family stayed in close contact with him and provided him with constant financial assistance."

The accused's mother even travelled to California where she spent time with Singh and his new wife after the birth of their two children, she added.

Cunningham called for Singh to be jailed for between 17 and 20 years before he is eligible to apply for parole.

She outlined a number of aggravating factors, including that Singh shot Poonam "point blank" because she had the audacity to go out with other men and because he believed he'd been made a fool of in front of his friends.

Singh entered his surprise guilty plea on March 11 on what was to have been the first day of his trial.

He'd been on the lam for 12 years following the January 1999 fatal shooting of Randhawa, who had recently broken off a secret relationship that had begun when she was 16 and he was 20.

Court heard that Singh became jealous and controlling and assaulted her a month before the murder.

Just prior to the murder, he drove from California, where he was living and working at the time, to Vancouver.

He invited the high school student into his vehicle and shot her once in the head as she sat in the back seat. He disposed of her body in a laneway.

Singh then fled Vancouver, travelling first to Seattle, where he caught a flight to California on the same day as the slaying.

For the next 12 years, he managed to elude police, taking up a false identity and changing his appearance. He got married, had two children and worked as a trucker owner-operator.

Vancouver police believed that his family knew where he was but got no co-operation. Police closed in on him several times but were not able to capture him.

Finally, police launched an undercover operation aimed at his half-brother in Calgary. Posing as members of a criminal organisation, police were eventually led to Singh. Police were able to locate Singh at his five-bedroom home in San Jacinto, California and they conducted surveillance on him.

In August 2011, they pulled him over during a traffic stop and arrested him.Singh's wife and two children, who had no idea about his past, were in the vehicle. Singh, who was charged with first-degree murder, was then extradited to Canada to face trial.
He pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of second-degree murder, which carries a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 25 years of parole ineligibility.

Outside court, Harry Randhawa, a cousin of Poonam, said Singh's conduct was "reprehensible" and "absolutely disgusting."

"To take somebody who had their whole future ahead of them and shoot them and throw them in a lane like they're garbage, there's no words for that."

Regarding the $150,000 paid by the family, Randhawa said ultimately Singh was the one on trial but added the victim's family holds his family responsible also.

"We hold their entire family responsible for what happened. They've supported him financially and in every possible way."

The cousin added that he'd like to see charges pressed against Singh's family."It's a shame for our whole community that someone does something like that and people still support him."

Randhawa said while there was no death penalty in Canada, Poonam's family wants the "maximum" penalty against Singh.

"You cannot run and you cannot hide. They will get you if you do something like this."He described his cousin as being "fearless" and someone who had no problem with standing up to a bully.

Her family had always hoped for the day Singh would face justice, he added. "Many of us struggled with it every day. Many of my family members struggle with depression, take pills.

"We're glad to be here. There's no victory in any of this."

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