A jealous woman who killed her former lover by lacing his curry with an ancient poison has been convicted of murder.
Lakhvir Singh, 45, was said to have killed Lakhvinder "Lucky" Cheema, 39, because she could not bear the idea of his marrying another woman. He had been due to marry Gurjeet Choongh, 21, on Valentine's Day last year.
But on 27 January at Mr Cheema's home in Feltham, west London, they both fell ill after eating a chicken curry into which Singh had put aconite. The poison, which is also known as wolfsbane and featured in a Harry Potter novel, has not been used to kill someone in England since 1882. Within hours Mr Cheema was dead and Ms Choongh was in a coma. She survived.
Yesterday, after a five-week trial, married mother-of-three Singh was found guilty of murdering Mr Cheema and of causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Ms Choongh. She was found not guilty of attempting to murder Ms Choongh. The jury is still considering its verdict on a fourth charge that Singh poisoned Mr Cheema a month before his death. She will be sentenced to life imprisonment when the jury returns its fourth verdict.
During the trial the Old Bailey was told that Singh had been having a secret extra-marital affair with Mr Cheema for 16 years but that he had decided to settle down and have children. Singh sent Mr Cheema text messages trying to talk him out of marrying Ms Choongh, whom he had only known for a few months.
When the engagement was confirmed in November 2008, Singh went to India and returned three weeks later. A week after that Mr Cheema became ill for the first time. It is alleged this was the first time Singh had tried to poison him although doctors were unable to say what caused his illness.
Then in January 2009 Singh went to Mr Cheema's home and put poison in a curry in the fridge. When she was arrested she tried to blame her brother-in-law, Varinder, for the death but a lodger at the house saw her take the curry out of the fridge earlier in the day.
Mr Cheema and Ms Choongh were discussing their wedding plans over dinner when he became ill. She told the court: "Lucky he ate more than I. After that, he had second helpings. Lucky said to me 'I am not feeling very well. My face has become numb and when I touch it, I cannot feel it'."
Ms Choongh had a shower and then said she began feeling similar symptoms and an ambulance was called. "He said that everything seemed to be going dark," said Ms Choongh. "He could not see anything and was losing feelings in his body. He was having to support himself. He said 'I think this problem is because of the food we have eaten'. I was feeling the same. Everything was going dark. I began to feel dizzy. It was difficult to stand up. My tummy was hurting."
Suspicious that Singh had poisoned them, Mr Cheema rang for an ambulance. He told the operator: "Someone put poison in our food... she is my ex-girlfriend." Before the ambulance arrived, Mr Cheema summoned his sister and nephews who took them to casualty in a car. He died within an hour of arriving at the West Middlesex Hospital. Police later found traces of the poison among herbs in Singh's coat pocket and in her handbag.
Edward Brown QC, prosecuting, said the couple had been "looking forward to a long and happy life together". He added: "That future happiness was cut short in a most terrible and cruel way. It was their very happiness and their intended future together that brought about the devastation that came to bear down upon them.
"Perhaps jealousy, anger and revenge all playing their part, Lakhvir Singh decided to poison them using an extremely toxic and deadly poison."