A 27-year-old Punjabi origin man in the United Kingdom was on Friday jailed for 17 years for a pre-meditated axe attack on a Namdhari leader inside a gurdwara.
Harjit Singh Toor, a call centre worker, was found guilty of attempted murder of Namdhari leader Udai Singh after a six-day trial at the Birmingham Crown Court.
The court heard that Toor had in August last year entered the gurdwara in Leicester, where about 300 worshippers had gathered for morning prayers and walked down the aisle towards Udai Singh and removed his shawl, and swung at the 56-year-old victim, hitting him on the head and wrist with an axe.
Toor was sentenced to a 17-year prison term after the jury unanimously convicted him of attempted murder.
“The attack was pre-meditated and you had armed yourself with a weapon,” justice Wilkie said while sentencing Toor.
“Fortunately the intervention of others prevented you from inflicting serious long term harm on Udai Singh,” Justice Wilkie added.
Detective inspector Martin Smalley, who led the Leicestershire Police investigation, said after the hearing: “This incident was witnessed by a large congregation taking part in their early-morning prayers.”
Toor admitted to have launched the attack on Udai, but denied the attempted murder charge.
He had, during the trial, accused Udai of sexually abusing him, when he was aged eight, in India about 20 years ago and contended that the attack was a revenge act.
“I was toying back and forth. I wanted to hurt Udai, I wanted to cause him harm. I remember thinking, as I was walking up to him, that I just wanted to scare him... and make him realise that I hadn’t forgotten,” he had said.
Senior district crown prosecutor Lawrence English said: “This was a vicious assassination attempt on a defenceless man during a religious ceremony in front of a full congregation.
To plan and execute an attack like this in a place of worship is simply abhorrent.” The case was a retrial after a jury at a February trial were discharged after failing to reach a majority verdict.
Udai had denied Toor’s charges. He rejected claims that he had abused Toor as “totally absurd.”
The Namdhari sect has its headquarters at Bhaini Sahib in Ludhiana district.