Glasgow & West Scotland

Surjit Singh Chhokar murder trial jury told of previous trials

Surjit Singh Chhokar Image copyright PA

A jury has been told that a man is standing trial for a second time over a murder in North Lanarkshire in 1998.

The High Court in Glasgow heard that Ronnie Coulter, 48, from Wishaw, was tried and acquitted of murdering 32-year-old Surjit Singh Chhokar in 1999.

These facts came out as defence QC Donald Findlay questioned Mr Chhokar's former partner Elizabeth Bryce.

Mr Coulter denies murdering Mr Chhokar, of Gowkthrapple, North Lanarkshire, and blames two other men.

He has lodged a special defence blaming his nephew Andrew Coulter and David Montgomery.

On day four of the trial, Mr Findlay asked 56-year-old Ms Bryce if Ronnie Coulter was sitting in the dock alone when she gave evidence in March 1999, and she replied: "Yes."

Original indictment

Mr Findlay then said: "So there was no Montgomery in the dock and no Andrew Coulter," and Mrs Bryce replied: "No."

The QC went on: "At the time of that trial, Ronnie Coulter was acquitted of the charge of murder wasn't he," and she said: "As far as I know, yes."

The jury was then told that Ms Bryce also gave evidence in 2000 and Mr Findlay said: "This time there was no Ronnie in the dock. It was Montgomery and Andrew Coulter," and she replied, yes.

Mr Findlay then produced the original indictment against Ronnie Coulter in which he was charged with stabbing Mr Chhokar, along with others unknown.

The jurors were also shown the indictment for the trial in 2000.

Prosecutor Alex Prentice QC asked Ms Bryce, who was giving evidence for a third day: "Did you give evidence at two trials," and she replied: "Yes."

Mr Prentice then asked: "Mr Ronnie Coulter stood trial and was acquitted, is that correct," and Ms Bryce replied: "Yes."

He then said: "David Montgomery and Andrew Coulter stood trial on the second occasion and they were acquitted, is that correct," and Ms Bryce said: "As far as I know."

In evidence, Ms Bryce said that she was contacted by police in August 2012 as part of an investigation into the death of Mr Chhokar.

Police witness

The court later heard from PC David Rattray, who was the first police officer on the scene.

He said that he found Mr Chhokar lying injured on the ground and his partner Ms Bryce in distress.

The officer said that while at the scene, and in an ambulance en-route to Law Hospital in South Lanarkshire, Ms Bryce only gave him the name of one of the three men she said were involved.

He was asked by defence QC Donald Findlay: "Did she name Andrew Coulter," and he replied: "Yes."

The QC went on: "It seems she didn't say anything to indicate she knew the names of the other two," and PC Rattray said: "No."

Ronnie Coulter denies murdering Mr Chhokar by repeatedly attacking him with a knife or a similar weapon and a further charge of forging Mr Chhokar's signature on a £100 giro cheque.

He also denies breaking into Mr Chhokar's home at Caplaw Tower, Gowkthrapple, on the day of his death and stealing a cooker and attempting to defeat the ends of justice by destroying or disposing of a knife and clothing.

The trial before Lord Matthews continues.

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