Sikh killing echo of Lawrence case

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THE FATAL stabbing of a Sikh waiter after a confrontation in the street with three white men has been identified by anti-racist campaigners as Scotland's equivalent to the Stephen Lawrence murder in London.

Surjit Singh Chhokar was stabbed to death outside his girlfriend's home last November. Only one of the three suspects was tried for murder and was eventually convicted of the lesser charge of assault.

Yesterday, the parents of Stephen Lawrence, a black teenager murdered in a racist attack in south-east London in 1993, were invited to Scotland to back the Chhokar Family Justice Campaign.

The Lawrence family's solicitor, Imran Khan, said yesterday: "We have received a communication from campaigners in Glasgow and we have been invited to a news conference about the case on Monday."

During a trial last week at the High Court in Glasgow, a jury heard that Mr Chhokar, 32, from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, was fatally stabbed in an altercation in the street outside girlfriend Liz Bryce's home in Overtown, Lanarkshire, last November.

Mr Chhokar had two daughters, Amandeep, three, and Honey, 13.

He was separated from his 30-year-old wife, Sandi.

Ronnie Coulter, 30, was acquitted of murdering Mr Chhokar, after he lodged a special defence blaming his 17-year-old cousin, Andrew Coulter, and 22-year-old David Montgomery with Mr Chhokar's murder.

Lord McCluskey, Scotland's longest-serving judge, who presided over the trial, was highly critical that only Coulter was in the dock. He told the jury: "A man was murdered in a public street by one or more persons who have been discussed in the course of this trial. For reasons that I cannot begin to understand, only one of those persons was placed in the dock.

"I will be taking steps to find out how that decision was reached."

In an unprecedented war of words, Lord Advocate Lord Hardie hit back, calling Lord McCluskey's remarks "ignorant, uninformed and ill-advised".

The Chhokar Family Justice Campaign believes there are similarities to the Stephen Lawrence case and is pressing for the other two suspects to be brought to trial.

A spokesman for the campaigners, Aamer Anwar, said: "If three black men had murdered a white man would the Crown Office have made such a mess of the case and been so insensitive to the family?"

The Crown Office, Scotland's prosecuting authority, said that it would be inappropriate to comment, as proceedings were still active and the two other suspects could still be tried.

Strathclyde Police have said they do not believe there was a racist element to the attack.

Meanwhile, the condition of a black teenager who lapsed into a coma after being kicked by a white gang in a racially motivated attack in the West Midlands on Saturday night improved slightly yesterday.

David Virgo, 19, a trainee landscape gardener, has emerged from a coma but was still too unwell yesterday to be interviewed by police.

He was punched and kicked unconscious after leaving a pub disco in Blackheath, near Dudley. Witnesses told police that Mr Virgo was subjected to racist abuse and his head was "kicked like a football".