Published: 11:28, 20 May 2014 |
Two men are today starting life sentences for brutally murdering Chatham pensioner Harjit Chaggar, whose body was dumped in a shop basement.
The 69-year-old was discovered in the Sani Globe food store 12 days after she went missing - having bled to death for up to six hours with devastating injuries.
Shop workers Mohammed Islam, 29, and 38-year-old Murshed Miah were convicted of murdering the retired machinist in "an act of utter wickedness" following an eight-week trial at Canterbury Crown Court.
Judge Adele Williams today jailed Islam and Miah for life - to serve minimum terms of 25 years.
The pair were also found guilty of preventing Mrs Chaggar's lawful burial or cremation and were given five-year sentences for these charges to run concurrently.
Their 45-year-old boss Abdul Hannan - the brother of Murshed Miah - and another shop worker, 27-year-old Rasad Miah, were also convicted or preventing Mrs Chaggar's burial and were each jailed for five years.
Passing sentence, Judge Williams said: "Each of you has been convicted of grave crimes on compelling evidence.
"On the afternoon of September 2, 2013, Harjit Chaggar was doing nothing more than shopping.
"She had been to your Sani Globe shop. You, Abdul Hannan, admit speaking to her. She left and a little later she was walking near the rear of the shop. You, Mohammed Islam, and I'm sure it was you, enticed her into the rear entrance. She was never seen alive again.
"Once inside, she was brutally attacked and murdered by you, Murshed Miah and Mohammed Islam.
"Which part each of you played, only you know, but I am sure, as was the jury, that each of you played a part in the murder."
Judge Williams added: "Harjit Chaggar was struck on the head, causing a wound which bled profusely, a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain.
"This took place in the alcove area of the lower store room. Excessive blood was later found there by the police.
"What happened next was truly horrifying. This was an act of utter wickedness. Harjit Chaggar was moved and thrown through a trap door and into the cellar below - a drop of 6ft. She was still alive.
"She suffered dreadful injuries, a fractured spine, a severed spinal cord and numerous fractured ribs.
"You left her to a cruel, lonely and terrible death. I am sure that you did that because you decided that she should not live to accuse you of assault."
Speaking outside court, Mrs Chaggar's son Kuldish said: "Justice has been done and my mother's murderers have been sentenced.
"The only difference is their families can go and see them now, but we can't ever see our mother.
"It's time for us to move on hopefully."
He said the judge's words were "painful to hear", adding: "The thought of my mother dying in agony without anybody beside her will haunt me for the rest of my life."
The jury earlier failed to reach a murder verdict for Hannan and the judge directed jurors to return a not guilty verdict. The Crown Prosecution Service said it will not seek a retrial.
Murshed Miah, of Wheeler Street, Maidstone; Islam, of Windmill Road, Gillingham; Hannan, of Aldon Close, Maidstone and Rasad Miah, of Otway Street, Chatham, denied the charges against them.
Widow Mrs Chaggar had been planning a trip to India to visit relatives before she disappeared while out shopping after visiting her doctor's surgery to pick up a prescription.
The jury had been told she had been assaulted and bled to death in the basement store room of the shop after being thrown through a hatch while still alive.
They heard of the devastating injuries Mrs Chaggar suffered before she died, including a significant injury to the left side of her head, a v-shaped cut that would have bled and was likely to have been inflicted with a weapon.
There was said to be bruising to the front and top of her head caused by blows when she was still alive.
However, the worst injury was a severed spinal cord and other injuries which, according to a pathologist's report, were usually associated with serious road crash or falls from a great height.
Mrs Chaggar's son Kuldish said: "The shock of losing our mother will never leave us. We pray that she is now at peace and can give us strength to carry on without her no matter what obstacles are placed in our way, for none can be bigger than losing her.
"We remember the good times, the smiles and laughter of a loved and treasured mother and grandmother who had so many hopes and plans for the future.
"She was a person that loved life and lived it as best she could, with a smile on her face."
Det Supt Rob Vinson, from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "These sentences will hopefully bring some closure to Mrs Chaggar's family and friends.
"Hannan, Islam and the Miahs have never told us exactly what happened once Mrs Chaggar entered the rear of Sani Globe Food. Their wall of a silence means we may never know.
"But they are now where they belong – in prison – where they can contemplate their roles in the murder of a 69-year-old lady."
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