Glasgow & West Scotland

Man on trial over murder of Surjit Singh Chhokar in 1998

Surjit Singh Chhokar Image copyright PA

A man has gone on trial charged with the 1998 murder of Surjit Singh Chhokar in Overtown, North Lanarkshire.

Ronnie Coulter, 48, denies killing the 32-year-old on 4 November and trying to conceal the alleged crime. He also denies allegations of theft.

Mr Coulter, from Wishaw, has lodged a special defence of incrimination to the murder charge, blaming two other men.

His trial, before judge Lord Matthews at the High Court in Glasgow, is expected to last about five weeks.

In a brief first day of evidence, the jury was shown a number of maps and images of areas related to the investigation into Mr Chhokar's death.

The court heard from retired Det Sgt Ian Davidson, 52, who was based at Coatbridge police office in 1998 and worked on the inquiry.

Witness statements

Mr Davidson told the court that during the investigation he took a number of statements from witnesses.

He identified Caplaw Tower in Gowkthrapple, Wishaw - the block cited as Mr Chhokar's home address, that has since been demolished.

The jury was also shown a photograph of a car - a Ford Orion - similar to the one driven by Mr Chhokar, parked in Garrion Street, Overtown, where he was stabbed to death.

Mr Davidson said the car in the photograph was part of a reconstruction used by police "to replicate where Mr Chhokar's car was that night".

The charges against Mr Coulter allege that he was acting with two other men - Andrew Coulter and David Montgomery - at the time of the alleged attack.

The murder charge includes allegations that Mr Chhokar was punched and had his arms grabbed to prevent him from defending himself.

He is then said to have been hit with a wooden baton before he was repeatedly struck with a knife and killed.

It is further alleged that Mr Coulter did previously "envince malice and ill-will" towards Mr Chhokar.

Mr Coulter is also accused of attempting to defeat the ends of justice on 4 and 5 November 1998 at waste ground between Overton and Gowkthrapple, all Wishaw.

It is claimed he got another person to hide clothes worn during the alleged murder and destroyed, disposed of or concealed a knife.

Special defences

Mr Coulter is further accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice with "intent to avoid detection, arrest, prosecution and conviction" between November 1998 and February 1999.

He is also charged with forging the signature of Mr Chhokar to help cash a giro cheque for £100.70 on 4 November 1998.

He is then accused of breaking into Mr Chhokar's home in Gowkthrapple, Wishaw - while acting along with Andrew Coulter - and stealing a cooker.

Mr Coulter, who is represented by Donald Findlay QC, denies all the charges against him.

He has lodged a special defence of incrimination to the murder charge blaming Andrew Coulter and David Montgomery.

He has also lodged a special defence of incrimination against Andrew Coulter in relation to the alleged forging of the giro and theft of a cooker.

The trial before judge Lord Matthews continues.

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