Alleged 'honour killing' victim hit, threatened, friend says
Weeks before she was found dead in India, the victim of what Indian authorities say was an 'honour killing' ordered by her family in British Columbia, a coworker noticed bruises on Jassi Sidhu's shoulder.
Tamara Lamirande, who worked with the 25-year-old woman at a Coquitlam beauty salon, testified Tuesday at the extradition hearing of Sidhu's mother and uncle that Jaswinder, or Jassi, Sidhu had married a poor rickshaw driver in India against the wishes of her wealthy family, and she suffered for it. Sidhu started coming in to work covered in bruises.
"I said, 'Why do you have bruises,' and she said: 'My aunts hit me,'" Lamirande said in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.
"That was when it became: 'Okay, Jassi, what is happening that your aunts hit you?' And she said she was being threatened and being hit and that was when I became more aware of how serious this was becoming."
Sidhu had kept her marriage from her family, but brought photos and love letters to work to show her friends, Lamirande told the court.
"She would bring in photos in a heart-shaped frame of Mithu and say this is my husband," Lamirande said.
She said Sidhu seemed happy to have someone to open up to, but her demeanour changed when her family found out about her clandestine union.
"She became nervous and worried... scared," Lamirande said.
Family members accused
Next month marks 13 years since Sidhu was strangled and beaten to death in Punjab, where she had gone to be with her husband.
Her uncle, Surjit Singh Badesha, and her mother, Malkit Kaur Sidhu, are wanted in India on charges of conspiracy to commit murder. They were arrested in Maple Ridge 16 months ago and face extradition to face the charges.
The court heard that Sidhu's uncle came to her workplace and told her boss she was not to leave work or be allowed to make any phone calls.
Lamirande reiterated the testimony of other coworkers who said the 25-year-old was escorted to and from work daily by aunts, uncles, her mother and her brother at various times.
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Sidhu did hear from her husband, however, and the news was not good, Lamirande testified.
"She had been receiving phone calls from India from Mithu and his friends that he was being threatened, that his family was being threatened, his mother, and he was scared and that he was beaten up," she told Justice Gregory Fitch.
"Jassi knew that the uncle had arranged people to go after Mithu and his family to scare him off, so that this marriage would break up."
Sidhu did seek help from police. Eventually, a Maple Ridge police officer escorted her to her family home to gather her belongings and Lamirande received a phone call that night. The young woman needed a place to stay.
Police arranged secret meeting
The officer asked Lamirande to drive into an underground parking lot at the detachment to meet her friend, "because at that time they were still concerned that maybe Jassi had been followed and that anyone trying to help her would be also in danger."
"I saw Jassi with the constable and she had two garbage bags and I believe a suitcase that she had quickly thrown together when she was with the constable at her house," she recalled.
Among the items thrown quickly into garbage bags as she fled the family home, Lamirande said Sidhu had crammed childhood photos of herself and her mother.
"She was crying because she was upset that she knew she wouldn't be able to see her mother any more," Lamirande testified.
After about a week at Lamirande's home, Sidhu flew to India to reunite with her husband, and bring him back to start their life in Canada. She never returned.
The couple was attacked near a village in Punjab in June 2000. Sidhu's husband, Sukhwinder (Mithu) Sidhu, was badly beaten but survived.
- Widower of B.C. woman slain in India lives in fear
Jassi was kidnapped and later murdered. Her body was dumped in a canal.
In court, Lamirande recalled a haunting conversation with her friend not long before her death.
"She described that it was different in India. You could pay somebody $200 Canadian and they would kill someone because they were so poor."
"Did she tell you she feared her uncle would do that?" asked Deborah Strachan, the lawyer for the federal Attorney General.
"Yes," Lamirande said.
She said Sidhu told her that her uncle was "all-powerful" in the family, and that he was responsible for what was happening. She then identified Badesha in the prisoner's box.
There are reports that Sidhu's family planned, and may have already agreed upon, an arranged marriage for the striking South Asian beauty.
Lamirande said she asked Sidhu if her mother and father would stand up for her, and was told that her father was mentally ill and not consulted on anything and her mother was "not really allowed."
According to reports, police in India have said the killers claim Sidhu's mother gave the order.
Seven men were convicted of the crime in India, but several of those convictions were overturned on appeal.
The family has denied involvement in the killing.
With files from the CBC's Belle Puri
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