Pair jailed for violent murder of shopkeeper

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The Independent Online

Two men were jailed for life today for the "sickeningly violent" murder of a shopkeeper who was battered to death with wine bottles from his shelves during a botched robbery.

Gurmail Singh, 63, was attacked for just a few pounds, some sweets, alcohol and cigarettes during a raid at his shop in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, in February.



Muawaz Khalid, 20, was told he must spend at least 21 years in prison by a judge at Bradford Crown Court. Nabeel Shafi, 18, who protested his innocence as he was led from the dock, was given a 20-year minimum term.



The judge, Mr Justice Henriques, said: "This was a most violent and sickening attack by at least two of you on a lone shopkeeper late at night.



"It is to be regretted that no defendant at any time during the eight-week trial showed the slightest remorse."



The judge said the victim's skull had been shattered into "little pieces" by the force of the blows.



"One blow would have disabled him, seven blows took his life away," he said.



"If Gurmail Singh had abandoned his property and money and said 'take what you want boys', he would not have lost his life. He was too brave for that.



"There may have been mental or physical suffering inflicted on the victim before death, in the sense this was a sickeningly violent and unnecessarily savage assault on a man in his 60s."



The court was told Mr Singh died as a result of a "robbery gone wrong".



He "did not meekly hand over his property, his hard-earned money" to a gang of robbers who targeted his shop, the court was told.



The jury heard how members of the public came to Mr Singh's aid.



One man trapped two members of the gang inside by holding the door shut but they got out of a back door after desperate attempts to smash their way out of the front, prosecutors said.



Both these suspects were tackled by other members of the public but managed to free themselves and get away, the court was told.



The court heard the shopkeeper came to England from India in 1963 and raised his family in Huddersfield. He bought the Cowcliffe shop about five years ago.



In July, six months after Mr Singh's death, his sons Bobby and Jas Hayre reopened the shop after a full refit.



After the trial, Mr Singh's family revealed the Prince of Wales had written a letter to his widow expressing his sympathy.



Gang member Rehman Afzal, 18, was sentenced to five years and four months for his part in the robbery. Umare Aslam, 20, received a six-and-a-half-year sentence for robbery.



Shoaib Khan, 18, received an eight-month sentence for assisting an offender but will be released because of time already served on remand.



Aslam, of Coniston Avenue, Dalton, Huddersfield; Khalid, of Blackmoorfoot Road, Huddersfield; Khan, of Calton Street, Hillhouse, Huddersfield; Shafi, of Park Hill, Bradley, Huddersfield; and Afzal, of Jacinth Court, Fartown, Huddersfield, all denied murder.



Aslam, Afzal and Khan were cleared of murder following the trial.



Khalid, who has a conviction for affray, and Aslam were convicted of robbery while Khan was cleared of the charge.



Afzal and Shafi pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to robbing Mr Singh.



Khan, who was released from custody 20 days before the robbery after serving a sentence for assault, admitted the charge of assisting an offender.



The court was told Shafi was "no stranger to robbery" and was part of a teenage gang who carried out street robberies.



The court was read a statement by Mr Singh's youngest son, Jas Hayre. He spoke of his family's devastation.



"Each day is a nightmare, praying that it is all a dream, knowing that it is a reality," the statement said.



"We have sat through the trial from beginning and when listening to those accused I see no remorse from them whatsoever."



He said family members were forced to hide their feelings and thoughts from their children "hoping they will never feel the hatred and revulsion towards the persons responsible."



Speaking after the case, Detective Superintendent Dave Pervin said: "The people sentenced will have a long time to reflect on what they have done in robbing and murdering Mr Singh.



"I would like to thank the brave people who tried to prevent those responsible from getting away from the scene of the crime."