'Scotland's Stephen Lawrence' case to be re-opened

Charlie Cooper
Friday 27 January 2012 01:00

Scottish police are to renew their hunt for the killers of an Asian waiter murdered by a white gang 13 years ago, following coverage by The Independent.

Prosecutors ordered the Strathclyde force to re-open its file on the murder of Surjit Singh Chhokar, who became known as "Scotland's Stephen Lawrence", after meeting the victim's family in Edinburgh yesterday.

Three men were previously cleared of the 1998 attack. But the abolition of the double-jeopardy law means those formerly accused can be brought to court again if there is "new and compelling" evidence against them.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland, Lesley Thompson, said the passage of time since the murder would be "no protection for those for whom there is new and compelling evidence of guilt".

Scotland's chief legal officer, the Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland, met Mr Chhokar's sister Manjit Sangha, 50, and his niece Suki Sangha, 25, at the Crown Office. Speaking after the announcement, Mr Chhokar's niece Jasneet Sangha, 30, said: "My family approached this meeting not knowing what to expect. We are happy with the outcome. It is what we hoped for but we have a long path still to walk."

Mr Chhokar's murder, in November 1998, remains one of Britain's most notorious unsolved crimes. The 32-year-old was knifed to death in Overtown, South Lanarkshire, by three white men. Police ruled out race as a motive but the Chhokar family has always believed his ethnicity was a factor.

The original suspects blamed one another during two separate trials. All three were acquitted. Two inquiries were held into the investigation and the police's treatment of the Chhokars. In 2001, the Jandoo inquiry found elements of "institutional racism" in the police and prosecution service and the then Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd QC, admitted the Crown Office and Strathclyde force had failed the family.

The family's solicitor, Aamer Anwar, said: "The Lord Advocate and the Solicitor-General have taken important steps today. But there are significant hurdles to cross. The family believe there is a determination to fight for justice."