A young British Columbia woman who authorities believe was murdered in a so-called honour killing feared for her life after her family found out about her secret marriage, a Crown lawyer said on Monday at the extradition hearing of her mother and uncle.
The murder of Jaswinder “Jassi” Sidhu in India almost 14 years ago was motivated by her decision to marry against the wishes of her family, Deborah Strachan told the court in final arguments.
The woman’s mother, Malkit Kaur Sidhu, and her uncle, Surjit Singh Badesha, face trial in India for conspiracy to commit murder in her death.
Both Jassi Sidhu and her husband, Sukhwinder (Mithu) Sidhu, were attacked in June 2000. He survived a beating. “The evidence is clear, in our submission, that Jassi feared that her uncle would kill her if he ever found out about her relationship with Mithu,” Strachan told BC supreme court justice Gregory Fitch. “That fear intensified when the marriage was discovered.”
During intermittent hearings over the past eight months, the judge heard testimony from Jassi Sidhu’s friends and co-workers about her life and her secret love.
Court heard that her family members kept her under watch at school and at work, and her uncle asked her boss to restrict her access to the telephone.
On more than one occasion, police were called and an RCMP officer escorted her to her uncle’s home to retrieve her belongings when she finally fled.
Upon finding out Jassi Sidhu had married a poor rickshaw driver in India and not the wealthy older man whom they preferred, court was told that Badesha threatened to kill her and her husband if she didn’t sign a letter falsely claiming the marriage was forced upon her, Strachan reminded the judge.
And court heard evidence that Badesha threatened to kill Jassi Sidhu if she returned to India.
Witnesses told the court that her mother slapped Jassi when she found out about the marriage, and froze a joint bank account Jassi held with her, cutting off the young woman from her money.
“It is our submission that the evidence demonstrates that, like Badesha, Malkiat Kaur was vehemently opposed to Jassi’s marriage to Mithu,” Strachan told the judge.
“Along with Badesha, Malkiat Kaur sought unsuccessfully to force Jassi to cancel Mithu’s visa.”
Malkit Sidhu, who along with Badesha appeared via video link, wiped tears as the lawyer for the federal Attorney General described her role on the crime.
Jassi Sidhu was 25 when her body was found in a canal in Punjab, India, on June 8, 2000. Her husband was badly beaten.
Several men have already been convicted of the crime in India. Indian police have said they believe Sidhu and Badesha ordered the attack but the family has denied involvement.
Court heard that Jassi Sidhu was stabbed with a kirpan that her husband saw in the hands of one of the assailants during the attack, and likely the same blood-stained kirpan later found by police at the farm of one of the men convicted in the attack.
Police also found a photo of Jassi Sidhu with information about her written on the back, Strachan said. The evidence against the mother and uncle is circumstantial, the Crown admitted, but enough to send them to India to face trial.
Final arguments are scheduled to continue over four days.
Michael Klein, Badesha’s lawyer, has yet to address the court but has told the judge that the passage of time and widespread coverage of the crime — which includes a movie based on her life and a book — makes witness testimony unreliable.
David Cross, Sidhu’s lawyer, has suggested to the court in previous hearings that Jassi Sidhu’s mother faced the same authoritarian conditions in Badesha’s home as her daughter.