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NRI admits attempt to kill Kanishka witness

Rajinder Singh Soomel, a 33-year-old Surrey truck driver, pleads guilty to attempted murder of Tara Singh Hayer, prospective witness in the 1985 AI bombings.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, Toronto
UPDATED ON MAR 18, 2008 04:27 PM IST

An Indo-Canadian has pleaded guilty to attempted murder of a witness, who provided police with information about the murder of a noted journalist.

Rajinder Singh Soomel, a 33-year-old Surrey truck driver, was arrested last October by the special RCMP task force probing the assassination of Tara Singh Hayer, prospective witness in the 1985 Air India bombing that killed 329 people, mostly Indians, Vancouver Sun reported on Tuesday.

Soomel was charged with attempted murder after the RCMP obtained evidence of an unfolding conspiracy to kill Hardip Singh Uppal.

Uppal had come to investigators with information about a series of gangland hits, some allegedly involving Soomel's brother Robbie, as well as the November 1998 shooting death of Hayer, the publisher of the Indo-Canadian Times.

A sentencing hearing for Raj Soomel is scheduled for Surrey Provincial Court on March 28, Neil MacKenzie, of the attorney-general's Criminal Justice Branch, said.

Soomel pleaded guilty during a court appearance on March 13.

Inspector Kevin Hackett, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officer in charge of the task force, said on Sunday that the Soomel plea is good for the continuing investigation.

"We are satisfied with this plea and that is a result of the dedication and the hard work of the members of the project team," the media report said quoting Hackett.

"But still our overall objective is the charging of those responsible for the murder of Tara Singh Hayer and we continue to work towards that goal," Hackett added.

Hayer's son Dave, the Liberal MLA for Surrey-Tynehead, said, he is happy to see continued progress on the part of the RCMP and added, "I have hope and faith in this special task force that they some time in the future will lay charges in my dad's assassination."

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