Died 2nd September 2013
Harjit Chaggar (69) died on 2nd September 2013 at Sani Globe grocery in Luton Road, Chatham, having sustained head and chest injuries. Her decomposing body was found 12 days later in the basement of the grocery store, now known as Chatham Food Centre. It is estimated she lay in the basement for 6 hours before she died.
Abdul Hannan (44) and Murshed Miah (38) both of Maidstone and Mohammad Islam (29) of Gillingham went on trial in March 2014 at Canterbury Crown Court, all charged with Ms Chaggar’s murder. They denied the charges. Along with Rasad Miah (27) of Chatham, they also denied preventing the lawful burial or cremation of Ms Chaggar.
In May 2014 Murshed Miah and Mohammed Islam were found guilty of murder. They were also found guilty of preventing Mrs Chaggar’s lawful burial, along with Abdul Hannan and Rasad Miah. Hannan was found not guilty of murder.
Ms Chaggar was a retired machinist, who lived in Hillside Road, Chatham. She was a widow, a mother and a grandmother.
The court heard Ms Chaggar disappeared while out shopping on 2nd September 2013. The court heard she had 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.
Bobbie Cheema QC, prosecuting, said: “Her killers showed her no mercy and she died there alone.” Judge Adele Williams praised the dignity of Ms Chaggar’s family and the police investigation.
Her son Kuldish Chaggar said: “We pray that she is now at peace and can give us the 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.”
Detective Superintendent Rob Vinson, from Kent Police, said the men’s silence meant he was unable to tell Ms Chaggar’s family exactly how and why she was attacked and left to die.
Nigel Pilkington, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “The defendants all knew… how she came to be killed and why. The denials of her murder and their collective attempts to hide the truth were particularly callous and aggravated further by the fact that they left her to die.”
During the trial, Bobbie Cheema, the prosecutor, told the jury that none of the accused, who all worked in the store, had offered any explanation of how Ms Chaggar died or how her body came to be under the floorboards. A handbag belonging to Ms Chaggar was missing along with some jewellery.
Ms Cheema said Ms Chaggar visited the shop on the afternoon of 2nd September 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.
The Prosecutor told the jury “She was rendered unable to leave and never seen again. 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…”.
The jury was told of the “devastating injuries” Ms Chaggar had 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. Ms Cheema said there was bruising to the front and top of her head caused by blows when she was still alive.
However, the worst damage was a severed spinal cord and other injuries which, according to a pathologist’s report, were usually associated with serious road traffic collisions or falls from a great height. Ms Cheema said this could have happened when Ms Chaggar was thrown from the hatch onto the basement floor. Ms Cheema told the jury “She sustained all her injuries before death and survived for up to six hours before she died,”. An expert estimated she died between 3.30pm and 8.30pm on the day she went missing from a combination of head, chest and spinal injuries.
In the days she was missing, her family made repeated efforts to try to find Ms Chaggar, visiting the Sani Globe and other shops. On 13th September, the family filmed an appeal near the shop to try to find out what had happened Ms Cheema told the jury: “At no point did any of the defendants give any indication to the police that they knew anything about her disappearance.”
It was reportedly the worsening smell which led to concerns being raised and the discovery of Ms Chaggar’s body.
Ms Chaggar’s killers will be sentenced on 20th May.
Note: This report was drawn from reports on the BBC, in Kent Online and ITV News.