Witness in Surrey murder case tried to bribe accused's family, court hears
The mom of one of two men accused to murdering a 21-year-old Surrey woman in 2005 says she was approached twice by one of the Crown's witnesses, who asked for money in exchange for not testifying against her son.
Amjad Khan and Naim Saghir are currently on trial for first-degree murder in the death of Tasha Rossette, who died in the doorway of her home after her throat was slashed and she was stabbed more than 40 times.
In New Westminster Supreme Court Monday, Amjad's mom, Sher Khan, said Harvinder Saran showed up at her house in April 2008. An old friend of her son's, she said she hadn't seen Saran for 12 or 13 years. Sher Khan said he asked for $60,000.
"He said 'I am the key witness and if I don't testify against your son, he is a free man'," Sher told the court, later clarifying he said if he got the cash, he would "disappear or … go in front of a judge and say the cops told me to lie."
She told him she didn't have the money.
Saran ended up testifying at Khan and Saghir's 2008 trial that Khan tried to hire him to kill Rossette. He didn't take the offer, he said, and instead told police about it.
Khan and Saghir were convicted in 2008 after a jury trial, but the conviction was overturned in 2011 and a new trial was ordered – the one now in progress.
Shortly after the verdict was overturned, Sher Khan said, Saran showed up at her house again in September 2011. He told her he was asked to testify at the retrial, but wouldn't if the Khans gave him money. This time, Sher said, he didn't specify how much he wanted, but she again said she didn't have the money. She said she saw Saran twice after that but didn't speak to him.
Sher Khan testified she phoned her lawyer after both visits from Saran, but never called police "because that was a police witness."
Even when police visited the Khan home this January, Sher said she didn't tell them everything, saying they'd hear it in court.
Crown prosecutor Donna Ballyk questioned Amjad Khan's mother's truthfulness and her identifying of Saran in surveillance video, suggesting the witness never went to her home.
"He came to my house, I'm not lying," Sher insisted, adding although she wants her son acquitted, she was telling the truth.
The Crown's theory is that Tasha Rossette was a pregnant with Amjad Khan's child, but that he wanted the pregnancy ended for fear of shaming his family, and she wouldn't have an abortion. Sher Khan testified many people in her family have had relationships outside the Muslim religion her family follows and it is not an issue.
In earlier testimony, a former roommate of Saghir's said Saghir came home one night in late 2005 looking frazzled with scratches on him. He said he'd death with Khan's "problem" and admitted he had killed Rossette.
The defense, however, contends there may be a third party who could be responsible for the crime.
Like in the first trial, Ruby Jubbal took the stand last week, telling of a sham marriage she paid Rossette to enter into with a man from India. But Rossette, she said, kept wanting more money and threatened to tell the authorities about the fraudulent marriage.
On Tuesday morning, Khan's lawyer Robert (Bob) Claus suggested there was "ample" evidence before the court that Jubbal had a motive, means and opportunity to murder Rossette. He said Jubbal had a reputation of violence in the community and at the time, lived with a man (Nash Bagri) who was not only violent but also wore the same brand of K-Swiss shoes as was found in a bloody footprint at the crime scene.
"That evidence is sufficient to lend an air of reality to the theory that someone else is responsible for this death," said Claus.
But Crown prosecutor Satinder Sidhu said if Jubbal was trying to keep the sham marriage a secret, murder would only bring it into the light.
"To kill Miss Rossette would not assist her in any way," she argued, noting that though Jubbal is a known fraudster, she has no convictions for violence.
In fact, she noted that Jubbal testified she liked Rossette and that during their last conversation, Rossette was trying to smooth things over between them.
As for Bagri, Sidhu said that though he was violent, he had no motive to kill Rossette, as he wasn't involved in the fake marriage scenario. There was also no evidence the shoe print was his and could also have been another woman's who had been on scene, wore the same brand and was the same size (7) as the print.
The trial continues.