Glasgow & West Scotland

Surjit Singh Chhokar murder trial: Jurors asked to convict accused

Surjit Singh Chhokar Image copyright PA
Image caption Surjit Singh Chhokar died in 1998

Jurors in the Surjit Singh Chhokar murder trial have been asked to convict the accused of the "tragic" stabbing.

Ronnie Coulter, 48, from Wishaw, denies murdering the 32-year-old in Overtown, North Lanarkshire, on 4 November 1998.

In his closing speech, prosecutor Alex Prentice QC told jurors: "The person responsible is Ronnie Coulter."

Mr Coulter's QC Donald Findlay told the jury that witnesses for the prosecution has been "atrocious" and told "deliberate and despicable" lies.

Addressing the jury in the fourth week of the trial, Mr Prentice said: "On 4 November 1998 Surjit Singh Chhokar made his way home from his work with a bottle of juice and a takeaway meal, doubtless looking forward to a pleasant evening.

"He was confronted in the dark by three men. He was attacked, stabbed, killed, murdered and left in the street."

Mr Prentice added: "I say to you the person responsible for that is Ronnie Coulter.

"I ask you to convict Ronnie Coulter of the murder of Surjit Singh Chhokar."

'Tragic tale'

Mr Prentice told the jury that they perform an important public function and urged them to put aside any emotion and not to speculate, but decide the case on the facts.

He added: "This is a tragic tale. This man's death occurred simply because Surjit Singh Chhokar's flat was broken into and his Giro cheque stolen. The incident which led to his death lasted only a couple of minutes if that, yet we have occupied four weeks exploring the events."

The QC also urged the jury to ignore the fact that there have been two previous trials.

He told the jurors: "There are some unusual features about this case. You have heard quite properly that there have been two previous trials. Ronnie Coulter, Andrew Coulter and David Montgomery have all been tried for murder and all have been acquitted.

"In large part the previous trials are irrelevant. You have no idea what the evidence was or who the witnesses were."

The jury has heard that Mr Chhokar was stabbed three times. The fatal wound went through his heart and he died of massive blood loss.

Ronnie Coulter has blamed his nephew, Andrew Coulter, and another man, David Montgomery, for the killing.

Convicted knife killer

Both have given evidence during the trial and admitted being there on the night Mr Chhokar died, but they denied murder.

Mr Prentice told the jurors that it would be suggested by the defence that there was a conspiracy against Ronnie Coulter in order to get him convicted of murder.

Referring to the two men Mr Coulter blames for the murder, Mr Prentice said: "Andrew Coulter is a killer who carries a knife. He pleaded guilty to culpable homicide of a man by stabbing him on the leg.

"Does that mean he stabbed Surjit Singh Chhokar? No it doesn't.

"There is a theme in cross-examination that he was seeking to divert blame from his uncle Ronnie for revenge or whatever.

"Andrew Coulter flatly denies having a knife that night and flatly denies stabbing Chhokar."

Mr Prentice asked the jury: "What was Ronnie Coulter's reason for being there? David Montgomery provided the lift and there was a dispute between Andrew Coulter and Surjit Singh Chhokar. Andrew Coulter had stolen and cashed his Giro."

Race 'irrelevant'

Mr Coulter's QC, Donald Findlay, later began his speech to the jury.

He told the jury it was Mr Coulter's position that he did not stab Mr Chhokar.

Mr Findlay said race had no part to play in Mr Chhokar's death, adding: "It is wholly, completely and utterly irrelevant."

The QC claimed the trial had heard from "atrocious witnesses" who were "determined to say what they wanted to say for their own personal reasons".

The advocate insisted "not just white lies" had been told, but ones which were "deliberate and despicable".

The trial before judge Lord Matthews continues.

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