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Mohammed Islam accused of murdering Harjit Chaggar in Chatham shop displayed reaction of innocent man on finding her body, jury to;d

By Sian Napier

The reaction of Mohammed Islam when he found the body of Harjit Chaggar in Chatham’s Sani Globe shop was that of an innocent man, his lawyer Anthony Orchard QC has told a jury.

Mr Orchard said Islam and Rasad Miah had been asked to clear rubbish from the store’s basement by the shop’s owner Abdul Hannan to try to find the source of a terrible smell.

Mr Orchard told Canterbury Crown Court: “Islam opened a hatch. It was heavy and the smell was overwhelming. Rasad said ‘I am not going down there.’ Islam goes down . It’s dark and he sees a plastic bag and pulls it. There is what must have been a terrible sight.

“Rasad pulls him back up and he is shaking and shocked. He can’t function.”

The jury is expected to retire this week to consider verdicts on three men accused of murdering 69-year-old Mrs Chaggar, of Hillside Road, Chatham, last September. Another man is on trial for preventing a lawful burial.

Police outside Sani Globe Food shop in Luton Road, Chatham
Police outside Sani Globe Food shop in Luton Road, Chatham

Mr Orchard said when the police were rung Islam was adamant that he had seen a body although Murshed Miah, who rang the police, told them he wasn’t sure if it was a body.

“There is no doubt what Murshed Miah had been told by Islam,” Mr Orchard said. “He is quite clear and it is not the language of a man in the know.”

Mr Orchard asked the jury to consider the evidence from Abdur Rohim, who cooked for staff at the shop. He had been in Britain illegally and returned to Bangladesh a week after Mrs Chaggar’s body was found in September last year.

“All his clothes were left at the shop,” Mr Orchard said. “He showered at the shop, ate his meals there and there was a mattress there for him. He denied that he smoked when he did. Why lie about this except to distance himself from the back of the shop. He also said he left by the front door that day which we know is a lie because there is no CCTV. “

Mr Orchard said on September 2 last year, the day Mrs Chaggar disappeared, CCTV showed Islam and Murshed Miah leaving the shop and Islam walking along the road to his home.

“Islam walks slowly, carrying bags,” Mr Orchard told the jury. “He pauses, he appears relaxed and these are not the moves of some cold blooded killer desperate to get home and take his clothing off, which must have been blood stained. He has not sought to blame the others, he simply does not know what happened.”

Harjit Chaggar was found dead in a shop in Chatham
Harjit Chaggar was found dead in a shop in Chatham

Mr Orchard said the case left many unanswered questions. “Why would anyone assist Islam if he had assaulted Mrs Chaggar,” he asked. “Islam was an employee. The Miahs would never have covered up for him. He wasn’t family. He was expendable.

“Is Mr Rohim a suspect? Why did he flee, leaving all his possessions there? What did he have to fear? He says he paid £500 to fly home, money he had to borrow. He says he wanted to go back to Bangladesh but if the police had found out he was here illegally he would have been put on a plane home and got his wish.

"There is no evidence he left the Sani Globe that evening. There is no evidence Rasad Miah left that evening.

“In his statements Murshed Miah is distancing himself from Islam. These are not defendants who are united. Islam’s reaction, we say, is the reaction of an innocent man. You can’t be sure he did it. We invite you to find him not guilty.”

Rebecca Trowler QC, defending Hannan, said the prosecution case against her client was as thin as it gets.

“The defendants were not acting together in 2013 and are not acting together now,” she told the jury. “Hannan gave a full account to the police which makes it absolutely clear that he was not involved in Mrs Chaggar’s death.”

Miss Trowler said Hannan was on the phone in the minutes before Mrs Chaggar left the store. “The prosecution say that something was said to make Mrs Chaggar leave and go to the back of the shop,” she said. “If that is the case it was not Hannan who said this.”

Islam, 28, of Windmill Road, Chatham, Hannan, 44, of Aldon Close, Maidstone; and Murshed Miah, 38, of Wheeler Street, Maidstone, all deny murdering Mrs Chaggar at the Sani Globe grocery store in Luton Road, Chatham in September last year.

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

The trial continues.

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