THE B.C. Court of Appeal in a unanimous judgment released on Monday dismissed an appeal by Tanpreet Kaur Athwal who was given a life sentence in November 2017 with no parole for 25 years in connection to the 2007 murder of Amanpreet Kaur Bahia.
According to court documents, in November 2017, a jury found Tanpreet Kaur Athwal guilty of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Amanpreet Bahia, who was killed in her home in Surrey in 2007. She was alone with her two youngest children at the time of the murder.
The Crown prosecuted Athwal for aiding the murder. The jury was told that to find Athwal guilty of the offence, it had to be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the Crown proved she: (1) knew someone intended to kill Bahia before the murder occurred; (2) intended to and actually aided that person in the killing; and (3) knew the killing was planned and deliberate.
The Crown alleged that Athwal planned the murder with Baljinder Bahia, the victim’s husband. She then arranged for and financed the killing. The individual who inflicted the stab wounds was Eduard Baranec. The purpose of the murder was to enable an intimate relationship (including marriage) between Athwal and Baljinder Bahia.
Following a “Mr. Big” operation that targeted Baranec, in which he disclosed the killing and implicated Athwal and Baljinder Bahia, all three alleged perpetrators were arrested and charged with first-degree murder. Athwal was tried separately from Baljinder Bahia and Baranec.
[A “Mr. Big” operation is one in which an undercover officer poses as a member of a fictitious criminal organization in order to extract a confession from a suspect.]
According to the summary of the ruling released on Monday, Athwal appealed the murder verdict on three grounds. She contended that: “(1) the trial judge erred in her admissibility analysis of hearsay statements tendered at the appellant’s trial; (2) statements made by the appellant to an undercover police officer were erroneously admitted without a “Hart” voir dire; and (3) the judge should have declared a mistrial when a sheriff misconducted herself at the trial.”
[Hart deals with the admissibility of confessions made in the course of a Mr. Big operation. A mini-hearing within a trial. A voir dire is a separate hearing within a trial to determine whether evidence is admissible.]
The Court dismissed the appeal. It stated: “The appellant has not established that the trial judge misdirected herself on admitting the hearsay statements or that her exercise of discretion was clearly wrong and resulted in a miscarriage of justice. Nor did the decision to forego a voir dire in respect of the appellant’s statements to the undercover officer constitute an error in law. The appellant waived the necessity of a voir dire. Finally, the trial judge’s refusal to grant a mistrial is entitled to considerable deference on appeal. The appellant has not shown a principled basis for interfering with that exercise of discretion.”
OCTOBER 2016 REPORT
Amanpreet Kaur Bahia’s husband and ‘hitman’ found guilty in her 2007 slaying
ALMOST 10 years ago, Amanpreet Kaur Bahia, 33, of Surrey was found stabbed on the kitchen floor of her Newton home by her in-laws as they returned home from a doctor’s appointment. Her throat had been slit several times. Two of her three daughters were at home that day in February 2007.
Police were apparently baffled until a police sting in Saskatchewan that wasn’t connected to the Bahia case started to unravel the whole mystery. Eduard Baranec ended up telling an undercover officer who posed as a member of a fictitious criminal organization about the Bahia murder and his connection to realtor Tanpreet Athwal.
Baranec had received $15,000 to murder Bahia, according to the audio recordings and other evidence the Crown presented in court
The police then started zeroing in on the victim’s husband Baljinder Singh Bahia as they suspected he had hired Baranec to carry out his wife’s murder.
A video-taped confession he made to police was part of the key evidence that was presented in court.
The court heard that Athwal and Bahia were suspected of having an affair and allegedly schemed to kill Amanpreet Bahia.
Baljinder Bahia, Baranec and Athwal were charged in February 2011 and were ordered to stand trial after a preliminary hearing in provincial court in May 2012. A trial was scheduled for January 2014, but was postponed several times.
ON Saturday (October 8), a jury in New Westminster found Baljinder Bahia and Baranec guilty of first degree murder and the B.C. Supreme Court justice sentenced both men to life with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.
The justice described the murder as “cold, enormous cruelty.”
Well-known community member Perminder Chohan, who was the victim’s uncle, told the media: “She was very hard working. She was so innocent. And how her life was gone, and how it impacted everybody’s life around her, it’s very sad. It was very sad to see how she was murdered.”
Jugraj Kahlon, the victim’s brother, who came from India for the verdict, told the media: “The person who did this, they have to pay, but this is not satisfaction. Maybe now she will rest in peace. We lost our sister. Now we are thinking about their kids. They will never have their mother. They will never have their father.”
The trial for Tanpreet Athwal, who is also charged with first degree murder in the case, will take place later.