15 years for Panghali before parole eligibility
Published Friday, March 25, 2011 10:29AM PDT
Former B.C. school teacher Mukhtiar Panghali has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years in the violent murder of his pregnant wife.
Panghali was convicted of second-degree murder last month for killing his 30-year-old wife, Manjit, then burning her body. He was also found guilty of interfering with a dead body.
She was four months pregnant with their second child when her corpse was found on a Delta beach, south of Vancouver, in Oct. 2006.
Crown was requesting a 20 year sentence before parole eligibility, saying Panghali showed no regard for his wife, his unborn child or their other young daughter.
Panghali declined to speak at today's sentencing. He showed no reaction in the courtroom as B.C. Supreme Court Judge Heather Holmes said his parole eligibility was higher than the 10 to 13 years recommended because of the "egregious circumstances." Holmes noted his wife was particularly vulnerable because she was five months pregnant.
Forensic pathologists say Manjit was strangled to death, but not before being brutally assaulted. Her autopsy revealed there was blood in her vagina and evidence of blunt force injuries to her pelvic area and neck before she died.
Panghiali, who did not report his wife missing for 26 hours after her disappearance, was charged with the murder after a five-month investigation.
The trial judge ruled that the case against him was entirely circumstantial, but there was "powerful evidence."
During the trial, Crown prosecutors said Panghali's strange behaviour in the days after his wife's disappearance -- as well as inconsistencies in his statement to police -- proved that he violently murdered her.
The Crown said Panghali tried to create the impression that he was concerned about his missing wife, while lying about his whereabouts and covering up the crime. Prosecutors said that he inundated police with calls suggesting possible suspects, including the victim's own brother.
One of the key pieces of evidence in the case was surveillance video taken at a local Chevron gas station the night of Manjit Panghali's disappearance.
While the accused maintained he stayed at home the night his wife disappeared, Justice Holmes agreed with the Crown's assertion he was the man seen on tape buying a lighter at 1 a.m.
In court, Panghali said on several occasions that he had not seen the deceased since she left for yoga class in South Surrey the night she went missing.
But Crown evidence -- and statements made by Panghali -- showed that Manjit had her cell phone with her when she left for class. By the next afternoon, her husband was using the phone, with his own SIM card inserted, and he continued to use it until it was seized by police three months after her murder.
Diary entries from Manjit in the months before her murder painted a picture of a distressed relationship, and an increasing sense of helplessness from a woman who desperately wanted her marriage to work.
She also urged her husband to seek help for what she believed was a dependence on alcohol.
"We have struggled with many issues – sex, drugs, alcohol, colleagues, family," Manjit wrote just four months before her death. "When you are ready and want to get some help you need to call AA by yourself."