B.C. Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)

B.C. Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Murder conviction upheld in case where Surrey mom was stabbed in front of her kids

Jury in 2017 found Tanpreet Kaur Athwal, aka Sonia Kaur Gill, guilty of first-degree murder in 2007 death of Amanpreet Bahia, 33

A woman found guilty of paying a hitman $15,000 to kill a Surrey mother so she could marry the victim’s husband has lost an appeal of her first-degree murder conviction.

A jury in November 2017 found Tanpreet Kaur Athwal, also known a Sonia Kaur Gill, guilty of first-degree murder in the 2007 stabbing of Amanpreet Bahia, who had been home alone with her two youngest children at the time.

Bahia, 33, was found dead at about 11:20 a.m. on Feb. 7, 2007, in the basement kitchen of the family’s home near Highway 10 and Scott Road. She’d been stabbed more than 30 times in her neck and back.

Discovered by family members, she was found lying in a pool of blood, with one of her young daughters sitting with her body. Two of the girls, who were aged one and three, were at home at the time while her eldest daughter was at school.

READ ALSO: First-degree murder convictions stand in ‘brutal’ slaying of Surrey mother

READ ALSO: Court makes public ‘abbreviated’ reasons for judgment in Surrey Six slaying appeals

Athwal appealed her conviction before the Court of Appeal for British Columbia on three grounds, her lawyer arguing that the trial judge erred in her analysis on admitting hearsay statements, that statements Athwal made to an undercover cop were admitted erroneously without a voir dire hearing, and that the judge should have declared a mistrial after a sheriff misconducted herself at trial. A voir dire is essentially a trial within a trial where the Crown and defence argue on what evidence should be rejected or considered by the court

The appeal court found the trial judge did not err on those three ground and dismissed Athwal’s appeal.

“I would dismiss the appeal from conviction. In my view, the appellant has not established error in the admissibility determinations,” Justice Joyce Dewitt-Van Oosten stated in her March 1 reasons for judgment. “Nor has she shown a basis for appellate interference with the denial of her application for a mistrial.”

“I would not accede to the second ground of appeal,” she added.

Justices Harvey Groberman and Christopher Grauer concurred with Dewitt-Van Oosten.

Last summer, the appeal court upheld the first-degree murder convictions of Eduard Viktorovitch Baranec and Baljinder Singh Bahia, the victim’s husband.

The court heard Baranec told undercover police during a “Mr. Big” operation that Athwal paid him $15,000 to kill the victim because she and Bahia were having an affair and wanted to get married. After the murder, he said, he threw the knife into the Fraser River.

Athwal was in India at the time of the murder.

During “Mr. Big” operations, an undercover police officer poses as a crime boss offering a position of trust in his bogus gang. Through this scenario, the police aim to draw a confession out of their target. There is a publication ban on any information that could identify undercover police in this case.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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