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Staff at Sani Globe food store in Chatham use incense to hide smell of decomposing body of Harjit Chaggar, court hears

By Paul Hooper

A shop assistant has told a murder jury of finding blood on the floor of a Chatham store where the body of a woman was later found.

But Anthony Barber said he thought it was from stocks of food, including chicken, which had been delivered to the store in Luton Road.

Mr Barber - a £6.80 an hour worker - also claimed that in September last year there was a bad smell coming from part of the Sani Globe grocery shop.

Harjit Chaggar with granddaughter Hannah on her 18th birthday

He told the jury at Canterbury Crown Court that joss sticks, which burn incense, were then placed in the area.

Mr Barber was giving evidence on the fifth day of the trial of Abdul Hannan, 44, of Aldon Close, Maidstone; Murshed Miah, 38, of Wheeler Street, Maidstone; and 28-year-old Mohammad Islam, of Windmill Road, Gillingham, who have all denied murdering Mrs Chaggar.

A fourth defendant, Rasad Miah, 27, of Otway Street, Chatham, has pleaded not guilty to preventing the lawful burial or cremation of a corpse.

The prosecution has alleged that the decomposing body of the 69-year-old widow was found hidden beneath floorboards in the basement.

Police outside the Luton shop where Harjit Chaggar's body was found

Mrs Chaggar disappeared while out shopping and her battered body was found 12 days later in the store.

She is alleged to have been assaulted and bled to death for up to six hours in the basement store room of the shop after being thrown through a hatch while still alive.

The prosecution has claimed that Mrs Chaggar had visited the shop on the afternoon of September 2 and was caught on CCTV.

A short while later, after having left the store, she was seen entering the back of the shop after having been beckoned in by a man.

"She was rendered unable to leave and never seen again," said prosecutor Bobbie Cheema.

She added: "She must have been held there against her will and thrown in the void under the floor. She did not fall in there by herself and did not cover herself up."

Police at Sani Globe Food store in Chatham after Mrs Chaggar's body was found

Mr Barber told the jury that during his work at the shop he discovered a trap door with a brass handle which he tried unsuccessfully to open.

"I wanted to know what was inside. There were pallets and a table which were on top of it.

"Later I was in the top of the shop and looked out into the car park and noticed a lot of police activity.

"I think I mentioned it to Murshed that there was a lot of police outside and he looked shocked and surprised."

Grandmother Harjit Chaggar was found dead in a shop basement

There was a moment of humour during the trial when Mr Barber was describing all the people who worked at the shop.

Prosecutor asked: "Was there anybody else that you were to see regularly at the shop?"

Mr Barber replied: "An elderly man."

Ms Cheema: "And what did you call him?"

Mr Barber answered: "An old man!"

He said the man - who was " a nice chap" - came to the shop each day to cook food for the staff.

The trial continues.

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