'Poison curry' murderer sentenced to 23-year minimum

A jealous woman who laced her former lover's curry with poison was given a life sentence today for his murder.

Lakhvir Singh, 45, was told she would serve a minimum of 23 years after she was convicted yesterday of poisoning Lakhvinder "Lucky" Cheema and his fiancee Gurjeet Choongh.

Singh was driven to murder to stop her secret lover of 16 years marrying his young fiancee.

The jealous mother of three sneaked into the home of Mr Cheema and Miss Choongh and spiked a curry in the fridge with deadly Indian aconite - known as the Queen of Poisons.

The couple ate the meal as they discussed their wedding - which was due to take place just weeks later on Valentine's Day last year.

Within hours of eating the curry on January 27, Mr Cheema, 39, was dead after having second helpings and Miss Choongh, 21, was fighting for her life in hospital.

Singh, of Southall, west London, showed no emotion as she was found guilty of murder. She was also found guilty of causing Miss Choongh grievous bodily harm with intent but was cleared of attempting to murder her and of administering poison to Mr Cheema in December 2008 at his home in Princes Road, Feltham, west London.

Sentencing her at the Old Bailey, Judge Paul Worsley told her: "You were not just a spurned lover, you did not simply explode in anger at your rejection. You set about a cold and calculating revenge."

Singh looked close to tears today as she was sentenced. She glanced up at the public gallery as she was taken down after learning she would be nearly 70 by the time she was eligible for release.

Miss Choongh said she could never forgive Singh for taking away the man she was about to marry.

She said: "I believe she should be given the sternest sentence possible so that it deters anyone else from even considering doing this to another person."

Miss Choongh told the court in a victim impact statement she still suffers the stress of having been close to death.

She said: "I am still under a lot of stress. It preys on my mind all the time.

"The time I spent in hospital was a very difficult time for me.

"I did not speak English, my family were not with me to take care of me and I felt completely alone and isolated.

"I still do not feel fully recovered and I believe it will affect me for the rest of my life.

"For several months the doctors were not sure whether or not it would have a long term effect on my internal organs. This gave me a lot of tension and I am still under a lot of stress."

She added: "Lakhvinder Cheema was my fiance and we were to be married on February 14 2009.

"Preparations for the wedding were under way, here as well as in India where my family lives.

"However, it is very unfortunate that Lakhvinder was snatched away from us.

"He was looking forward to having children and also having his elderly father living with us.

"But none of this is now possible. His death was a major shock for me.

"Even though I knew him only three-and-a-half months, he had a very important place in my life. Now my life without him is extremely hard.

"The poisoning led to Lakhvinder's death and took me to the brink of death."

Miss Choongh was sometimes feet away from Singh, who had been on bail, in court.

But the two women did not exchange glances other than frosty stares when the other one was not looking.

Mr Cheema's sister, Narinder Singh, who is also the sister-in-law of Lakhvir Singh's husband, also told of her pain in a statement.

She said: "He was like a son to me and like a god to me.

"My sons say that we cannot bring our uncle back but we want justice for him.

"When he was around I never felt that I needed anyone. Now I feel as if there is only emptiness in my life."

Mrs Singh, 48, of Windsor, Berkshire, said her family had been devastated by Mr Cheema's death.

She added: "We do not know what Lakhvinder was going through as I was unable to speak to him in his last moments.

"When my brother was alive he could not bear to see me crying. Now I am left to cry for the rest of my life.

"Lakhvinder was a friend to everyone and he always helped everyone. The day he needed help, no one helped him.

"We cannot find words to to express what we feel in our hearts. We cannot adequately express the vacuum left in our lives."

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