Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

20 Years for Woman, 70, Who Ordered Murder of Son's Wife; Tears: Bachan Athwal, 70, Cried as She Was Sentenced to Life at the Old Bailey Today by Judge Giles Forrester Vivacious: Surjit Athwal's Body Is Still Missing

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

20 Years for Woman, 70, Who Ordered Murder of Son's Wife; Tears: Bachan Athwal, 70, Cried as She Was Sentenced to Life at the Old Bailey Today by Judge Giles Forrester Vivacious: Surjit Athwal's Body Is Still Missing

Article excerpt

Byline: ROB SINGH

A GRANDMOTHER was today facing the prospect of dying in prison after shewas jailed for life for ordering the murder of her daughter-in-law.

Bachan Athwal, 70, arranged for Heathrow Customs officer Surjit Athwal to"disappear off the surface of the earth" after discovering she was having anaffair and that she wanted to end her marriage.

Bachan's son Sukhdave, 43, was also given a life sentence at the Old Baileytoday for his part in the murder of his wife, whose body has never been found.

Judge Giles Forrester told Bachan she would serve a minimum of 20 years.Sukhdave was ordered to serve at least 27 years before he can be considered forrelease.

Surjit, 27, was lured on a trip to India in December 1998 by her mother-in-lawfor a family wedding but never returned.

Later the Sikh grandmother of 16 boasted that she had got rid of Surjit bygetting a relative to strangle her and throw the body into a river.

Today Surjit's family praised the police investigation but said the Met, theForeign Office and agencies in India should have acted faster.

Her brother Jagdeesh Singh called for a public inquiry into how honour killingssuch as his sister's, and the recent case of Banaz Mahmod, are treated by theauthorities.

Earlier this year the father and uncle of Miss Mahmod, 20, were sentenced tolife after she was strangled and her body buried in a suitcase for falling inlove with a man outside the Kurdish community. It was claimed Miss Mahmod'sfears for her safety were not taken seriously by the authorities.

Bachan, from Hayes, west London, was found guilty of murder at an earliertrial. Heathrow bus driver Sukhdave, who still lives with his mother, was alsofound guilty of murder.

Both had denied the offences. The grey-haired widow, who has always protestedher innocence, wept in the dock with her head bowed as she became one of theoldest women in Britain to be jailed for life in recent times.

Bachan shook her head as the judge told them: "How you could commit thisunspeakable act I do not know. There was no motive worthy of the name. …

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