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UK NRI given life sentence for murder

Gurmej Raj, 38, has been jailed for the murder of four relatives including his wife and her parents.

india Updated: Mar 22, 2006 11:23 IST

A man of Indian origin in Britain has been sentenced to 35 years in jail for organising the murder of four relatives, including his wife and her parents, who wanted him to give up his "bachelor" lifestyle with a mistress.

The unfaithful husband, Gurmej Rai, 38, has been given four life sentences but must serve a minimum of 35 years in jail.

In September 2004, he planned and executed what a judge called a "wicked and terrible crime" in which he paid for his wife's family home in Tipton, West Midlands, to be burned down. Rai organised for Raju Sahonta, 21, and Ravinder Badhan, 20, to enter the house, douse the hallway in petrol and set it alight.

The blaze engulfed the property and killed Rai's wife, Darshan Kaur, 30, her parents Ajit Singh, 64, and Gurdish Kaur, 60, and their daughter-in-law Palvinder Kaur, 44.

Reports say that Rai was also sentenced to 25 years, to run concurrently, for the attempted murder of Amerjit Kaur, 24, who was the only survivor of the blaze.

Sahonta and Badhan, both from the Handsworth area of Birmingham, were sentenced to 14 years on four counts of manslaughter at the Birmingham Crown Court.

Sentencing Rai, Justice Treacy said: "You have been convicted of a wicked and terrible crime out of anger and revenge and the desire to set yourself free from your marriage. You took the life of the family who stood in the way of your desires.

"With your actions you caused the death of four members of your own family. Your intentions were that your victims died in a massive petrol-accelerated fire," he said.

He went on: "Your actions have cut a swathe through the Sidhu family. You have deprived your own son of his mother by taking her life. You followed your terrible crimes with callous hypocrisy. You took refuge in your brother-in-law's home and you feigned grief in the midst of the misery you caused."

Rai had moved to Britain in 1998 while his wife remained in India. During that time Rai lived a bachelor's life and had a mistress. But when his wife, Darshan, came to Britain in 2004, Rai was told by her family that he needed to give up his unfaithful lifestyle and become a model husband.

Rai reportedly resented this and hatched a plot to pay Badhan and Sahonta to set fire to their house while they were asleep. He gave them a key to the house and late on Sep 27, 2004, they entered through the front door, poured petrol in the hall and set it alight.

Badhan and Sahonta told the court that they thought that the plan was an insurance scam and did not know that anyone was inside the house. The jury cleared them of four counts of murder and one of attempted murder. But both admitted the manslaughter of the four.

Detective chief inspector John Birch of the West Midlands Police said: "I am delighted, as are the family, with the fact that Rai has been properly punished."

First Published: Mar 22, 2006 11:23 IST