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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sikh taxi driver murdered with his own cab

From The Times
May 25, 2007
Sikh taxi driver murdered with his own cab
Michael Horsnell
An elderly Sikh taxi driver was knocked down and killed by his own cab after a passenger hijacked the vehicle in what murder squad detectives believe could have been a racial attack.
Police appealed for calm yesterday after the incident in which Gian Chand Bajar, 71, chairman of the Guru Nanak temple in Gravesend, Kent, was run over at least once by his assailant.
Chief Superintendent Gary Beautridge, who is leading the murder investigation, described Mr Chand as an “upstanding member of the community” who had been the victim of a “heinous and cowardly crime”.
He added: “We are keeping an open mind but we would certainly not rule out that the attack was racially motivated.”
As the Sikh community voiced its anger, local taxi drivers claimed that the murder had been “waiting to happen” because of the failure of police to tackle taxi assaults.
Mr Beautridge, who was confronted by drivers during an emergency meeting at the temple, said later: “This murder is a matter for the police to resolve and we appeal for witnesses. This is not an issue where individuals or groups should take the law into their own hands.”
Mr Chand’s son, Telu, 35, fought back tears as he said: “I don’t want anything to happen to these people responsible for my dad’s murder. I just want the police to catch them so they do not have the opportunity to do this again.”
Police have established that Mr Chand picked up a passenger at 9.43pm on Wednesday in Armoury Drive, Gravesend, and dropped him off at 9.57pm in Tooley Street, near by.
He is then believed to have been flagged down in the Springhead Road area, where he picked up a fare, and headed to the Westcourt area of Gravesend.
Witnesses saw him being assaulted and run over in St Benedict’s Avenue at 10.10pm. Residents put blankets under his head and over his body as they awaited paramedics. He was taken to the Darent Valley Hospital, in Dartford, but died later from his injuries.
Witnesses have told police that Mr Chand, who was married to Amarjit, 62, the mother of his five children, had been driven over by his own vehicle, possibly twice.
One resident said he saw burn marks on Mr Chand’s arms, possibly from where he came into contact with the car’s exhaust pipe.
His silver Skoda Octavia, registration GK02 YKA, was found burnt out in an alley adjacent to Dorchester Avenue and Lamorna Avenue.
Neil Batcheldor, 45, a taxi driver, said: “We’ve been waiting for this. We’ve had so many attacks in the last few years. We’ve been speaking to police, Gravesham Borough Council and Cab Watch, and we told them it was a case of when, where and who. It had to happen.”
Mr Chand was semi-retired and worked part-time for Millennium Data Cabs in Gravesend. Nirmal Thandi, the firm’s co-owner, said: “You could not have met a nicer man. He was very family oriented and did a lot of work for the community. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Bruce Parmenter, Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesman for Gravesham and a taxi driver for 11 years, said: “My opinion is that this was a tragic incident that was bound to happen because police are not tackling crime.
“I speak from experience, having been attacked myself two and a half years ago, and I waited three days for a police response, in which time the crime scene was destroyed.”
Gurvinder Sandher, of the North West Kent Racial Equality Council, said: “There was shock at what has taken place. The shock has not just been felt in the Sikh community but in the whole community.”
Mr Chand came to England in 1971 from the Punjab where, as a civil servant, he was responsible for land allocation. At first he first worked as a builder, and later on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link project through Kent.

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