Chhokar case must be re-examined, says former top policeman
Charlie Cooper is Health Correspondent for The Independent, i, and The Independent on Sunday, writing on the NHS, medical advances, and international health. Since joining the papers as an editorial assistant, he has been nominated for young journalist of the year at both the Press Awards and the British Journalism Awards.
Saturday 07 January 2012
Advances in forensic science could reinvigorate the inquiry into the death of Surjit Singh Chhokar who was stabbed to death by a white gang.
Just as improvements in forensics techniques helped prove Gary Dobson and David Norris murdered Stephen Lawrence, so there is hope that 'Cold Case' reanalysis can help pinpoint Mr Chhokar's killers.
Graeme Pearson, who was Assistant Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police at the time of the killing and is now a Member of the Scottish Parliament, said it was time case was re-opened by the Crown Service, the Scottish prosecuting authority.
"The Chhokar case was always unfinished business and was a case that was left with an unsatisfactory outcome," he said. In the Lawrence case, new evidence was deduced as a result of DNA analysis – so one would assume that there would be a cold case review in the Chhokar inquiry and if the criteria for prosecuting again are agreed and delivered, it would be an ideal case for a retrial."
Three men stood trial for Mr Chhokar's 1998 murder in Lanarkshire. Ronnie Coulter was tried first but was acquited of murder after blaming his nephew Andrew Coulter and David Montgomery. Two years later Andrew Coulter and Mr Mongomery went on trial but they blamed Ronnie Coulter and were acquitted.
At the end of last year, the double jeopardy law was repealed in Scotland and the Crown Office has now said is looking at cases suitable for retrial under the new laws but that no decision has yet been taken.
A spokeswoman for Strathclyde Police said it was up to the Crown Service to instruct them on reopening investigations. Mr Chhokar's family want the case reopened and their lawyer, Aamer Anwar, said earlier this week: "If there is even a shred of evidence there, they are willing to take the chance and they don't understand why the prosecutors are not."
He added: "There has been a denial of justice. Not once, but twice. Why does no one want to do anything about his murder anymore?"
In the wake of the convictions in the Lawrence case, The Independent called for police and prosecutors to deliver justice to the families of four victims of other notorious racist attacks.
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