Glasgow & West Scotland

Tracey Wylde murder suspect says accusation 'shattered my life'

Sougat Mukharjee and his wife, Sagat. Image copyright Sougat Mukherjee
Image caption Sougat Mukherjee has been married to his wife, Sapna, for 21 years

A former prime suspect in a murder case dating back more than 20 years has said that his life was "shattered" by the accusation.

For several years, 41-year-old Sougat Mukherjee lived under fear of extradition from India to Scotland for a crime he didn't commit.

The victim, Tracey Wylde, was choked to death in her Glasgow flat in 1997.

But her killer, Zhi Min Chen, was only caught last summer after he gave police a forensic sample following an assault.

When it was run through the database, his DNA matched the mystery profile found in Ms Wylde's home in Barmulloch more than two decades ago.

Chen, 44, pleaded guilty last month and has now been ordered to serve at least 20 years in prison.

'Riches to rags'

The case touched many lives, most notably those of Ms Wylde's family and the three-year-old daughter she left behind.

It also had a devastating effect on Mr Mukherjee after he discovered in 2014 that he was wanted on the other side of the world.

The father-of-three, who now plans to seek compensation, told BBC Scotland: "I have gone from riches to rags in five years for doing nothing.

"I am as good as a beggar in my life."

Image caption Tracey Wylde, 21, was found dead in her home in 1997

At the time of the murder Mr Mukherjee was a 19-year-old student at Glasgow Nautical College.

He had arrived in Scotland in the autumn of 1996 and lived in student halls.

Mr Mukherjee said he led a simple life studying and working part-time in grocery shops and restaurants.

During his time in the city he said he was never in any trouble and was himself a victim of crime, when he was mugged by a gang near the college.

But he believes his decision to drop out of his course and fly home to Mumbai three months after the murder put him on the police radar.

On returning to India he married his wife, Sapna, and started a new university course in Chennai.

Murder suspect

Mr Mukherjee went on to enjoy a successful career in sales and business development and travelled widely with his work, including to the US, UAE and Greece.

That was until October 2014, when local police informed him that he was a suspect in an unsolved murder case in Glasgow.

He recalled: "It shocked me to the core.

"My entire family were shattered."

Image copyright Sougat Mukherjee
Image caption The case has had a profound impact on Mr Mukherjee's wife and three children

The following January Mr Mukherjee's case featured in the media after he was accused of absconding and taken into judicial custody.

After being branded a fugitive he spent more than three weeks in Mumbai Prison before being released on bail.

Mr Mukherjee recalled: "The first time I saw Tracey Wylde's photograph was when my mum and dad and my wife came down to meet me in prison.

"I had never seen that lady in my entire life."

Mr Mukherjee believes the case against him was based on his premature departure from Glasgow and CCTV evidence.

He stressed he had never been with a prostitute and has been happily married for 21 years.

However, he found himself at the centre of a protracted extradition battle which took a heavy toll on his health.

The cloud of suspicion also left him unable to get a job and reliant on financial hand-outs from his parents and in-laws.

He recalled: "We had to leave the lease apartment where we were staying because everybody in society had seen the news and they did not want a murderer to stay inside the flat."

'Beyond repair'

Mr Mukherjee's wife, Sapna, said the murder accusation had a profound effect on her and the couple's three children.

She said: "We went through hell.

"Things were really bad for the last five years because my husband was in a good position as far as work was concerned, but eventually things just crashed.

"Things just went from bad to worse.

"My children had to face a lot of problems because a lot of people didn't want to have any relationship with us because they were children of a murderer."

Mrs Mukherjee, 39, said her husband had been left "broken" by the accusations.

She added: "We are still suffering and it is still not over for us.

"What has been done is not repairable."

Image caption Zhi Min Chen was caught through a DNA sample

Mr Mukherjee discovered that Chan had been arrested last summer through a news notification on Google.

But he faced more months of uncertainly until the killer tendered a guilty plea on 24 April.

Chan's confession came after his DNA was found to match samples found in Ms Wylde's flat.

Mr Mukherjee asked: "If this guy was not caught what would have happened to me in the next 10 years?

"I would have died and gone to my grave and been called a murderer."

'Deepest grief'

He now wants to know why a forensic sample which he gave four years ago was not enough to clear his name.

Mr Mukherjee said: "I expected a result in two months. If the DNA didn't match they should have taken me off the hook at that point in time.

"Why did it take so long? That will be my deepest grief until the day I die."

The businessman had no direct contact with Police Scotland but was told to attend his local police station once a week.

He also said he was still taking "heavy medication" due to the stress of the case.

Mr Mukherjee added: "I could not sleep and used to lie on my bed with my eyes open and think: 'What the hell happened to me'?"

He said he had not attended any family occasions in recent years. "I am always alone in the house."

Image caption Ms Wylde's sister, Bernadette McCash, said the family were disappointed by the sentence

Mr Mukherjee was only officially notified that he had been exonerated on 1 May when he received a letter from India's Department for External Affairs.

But he said he was still waiting for local police to return his passport.

"I could not come out of the depression, even when I got the news, because you think: 'Why did it take them so long to understand I was not a criminal?'

"Now I am slowly recovering but I don't know how I am going to financially cover myself for the loss of this five years and what I have gone through.

"Who is going to be responsible for covering the financial damage?"

As the real killer begins his life sentence the businessman said his thoughts were with Ms Wylde's loved ones.

He added: "I am deeply sorry for the loss to their family and that a daughter has grown up without a mother.

"God is there and justice was done for that girl."

A Crown Office spokesman said: "Careful consideration is given to any reports of alleged criminal conduct which are submitted by the police.

"Action will be taken if the reports contain sufficient evidence of a crime and it is in the public interest to do so.

"It is the duty of the Crown to keep cases under review and following full consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case Crown Counsel instructed that there should be no further proceedings against Sougat Mukherjee."

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