From loving husband to 'smug' killer

By Debabani Majumdar and Chris Summers
BBC News, London

Image caption,
Harpreet Aulakh (left) went with a friend to buy the 14in machete

Three men have been jailed for life for the murder of a radio station receptionist who was attacked, and had her hand chopped off with a machete, as she went to pick up her two sons from a childminder.

Harpreet Aulakh was described by the prosecution as a man with a "smug chauvinist mindset", who planned his wife Geeta Aulakh's murder because he could not tolerate the idea of her divorcing him.

At one point the judge warned the jury not to read anything into Aulakh's "habit of smiling and grinning before answering questions", before the 32-year-old, from Greenford, west London, began giving evidence.

Aulakh was also reprimanded by the Old Bailey judge for swearing at his wife's sister, Anita Shinh, 30, when he was asked if he told his older son to refer to her as "Mum".

In November 2009 Geeta, 28, Aulakh's wife of 10 years and the mother of his two sons, was hacked to death with a 14in machete which he himself had chosen from a selection of swords at a store days before the attack.

Aulakh, also known as Sunny, and two others - Sher Singh, 19, of Southall, and Jaswant Dhillon, 30, of Ilford, east London - were found guilty of Geeta Aulakh's murder.

A fourth defendant, Harpreet Singh, of Slough, Berkshire, will face a retrial after the jury was unable to reach a verdict. He denies murder.

'First love'

Aftab Jafferjee QC said: "Harpreet Aulakh's reaction displayed a chilling belief - almost certainly culturally rooted - in male unaccountability.

"How dare a mere woman - as he, and other like-minded accomplices would view her - challenge that smug chauvinist mind-set?"

Aulakh denied the murder saying he had been at a pub in Heston, where he made sure he was seen on CCTV, at the time of the attack.

But his "act of cunning" backfired as telephone records showed Aulakh calling his accomplices in Braund Avenue, Greenford, minutes before and after the attack, the court heard.

Image caption,
Geeta Aulakh was murdered at Braund Avenue soon after leaving the bus

Aulakh and Geeta, whom he described as his first love, eloped to Belgium when Geeta was a teenager as her family disapproved of the relationship. The pair returned to London in 2001 after the birth of their first son.

Geeta, a receptionist with Asian radio station Sunrise Radio, was of a timid disposition and was "put down" by Sunny in front of others, the court heard.

She had also told her sister and colleagues about Aulakh's watchful eyes over her every movement, which continued even after they had separated months before the murder.

Sunny went to India for a wedding in January 2009 and, before his return, Geeta moved from Southall to Greenford and filed for divorce in August of the same year.

In her petition she stated Aulakh was violent towards her and had hit her several times, including when she was pregnant.

Weeks before the murder, with "breathtaking indifference", Aulakh offered £5,000 in a room full of Punjabi men to commit a murder, Satanter Singh, who was in the room, told prosecutors.

Sher Singh, who police believe struck the fatal blows, was also present in the room.

'Stop harassing'

While in India, Aulakh had kept calling Geeta several times a day, even asking his older son whether any men came home.

Image caption,
Harpreet Aulakh and Geeta met when she was a teenager

He was convinced his wife was having an affair on his return from India in September, and admitted to hacking into her Facebook account.

When Geeta went to India for her brother's wedding in September, the calls from Aulakh continued. He also questioned Miss Shinh, who asked him to "stop harassing my sister".

Miss Shinh said he warned her: "I know she's got a boyfriend... I'm gonna kill him and I'm gonna kill her".

By early November, the court heard, Aulakh had begun planning the attack and went to buy a machete from a shop in Staines Road, Hounslow.

He was seen on CCTV checking a twin sword and a magnetic sword before deciding on the Tramontina machete.

On 16 November Geeta boarded a bus for Braund Avenue to pick up her sons, now aged eight and nine, from the childminder before the short walk home.

As she walked to the childminder's house she was ambushed, with Sher Singh wielding the machete.

Geeta tried to protect her head with her right hand but it was severed in one blow with such force it was "fully amputated".

The attack, lasting three minutes, left her with severe wounds to the right side of her face and the back of her skull. She died three hours later.

Chauvinism 'not culture'

Image caption,
Geeta's family disapproved of her relationship with Harpreet Aulakh

Virendra Sharma, MP for Ealing Southall objected to the prosecution stating Aulakh's actions were a manifestation of a "culturally rooted" male chauvinism within the Asian community.

He said: "It is not a part and parcel of our society.

"Whenever a killing takes place people ask is it honour killing? I say it is the madness of certain individuals."

Mr Sharma, who knew Geeta Aulakh and her family well and attended her funeral, said the community was "shocked" by the murder.

"I am a father of a daughter and a grandfather of a granddaughter. I feel like my child was murdered."

The murder of Geeta Aulakh has left the couple's two young children bereft of parents.

In a victim impact statement Geeta Aulakh's mother, Nardesh Shinh said: "What kind of life will those young children now have? Geeta adored her boys and they adored her. It breaks my heart knowing that they will never feel their mother's love ever again.

"Geeta, we promise as a family to bring up your children with love, respect and honour, just as you did. We pray you can shine some light on us until we meet again."

A fourth man, Harpreet Singh, 21, from Slough, was jailed for life - with a minimum of 22 years - in April 2011.

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