Cellphone records will help prove man killed pregnant wife, Crown tells trial

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C.— The Canadian Press

Cellphone records and circumstantial evidence will show that a Surrey, B.C., man killed his pregnant wife, the Crown said in its opening statement at the trial of Mukhtiar Panghali.

Mr. Panghali is on trial for second-degree murder and interference with a dead body in the October, 2006, death of his wife, Manjit, whose burned remains were found on a Delta beach five days after she disappeared.

The 30-year-old Grade 1 teacher, who was four months pregnant with her second child, disappeared on her way to a prenatal yoga class.

Mr. Panghali, a high school science teacher, was charged with murder five months later – on his wife's due date.

On Monday, Crown prosecutor Dennis Murray told a B.C. Supreme Court judge, who is hearing the case without a jury, that Mr. Panghali gave varying accounts of events immediately after reporting his wife's disappearance. He did this to cover up the fact that he had seen her after she went missing and to create the impression of concern, Mr. Murray said, but cellphone records will prove his guilt.

Mr. Murray told the judge that evidence will show Ms. Panghali used her cellphone to make four calls on the way to her yoga class the day she disappeared, and her husband used that same cellphone with a different sim card after her disappearance. Mr. Panghali also moved his wife's car to create confusion about her whereabouts, the Crown told the court.

The trial in New Westminster, B.C., is expected to take up to a month.

The Panghalis had a three-year-old daughter at the time of Ms. Panghali’s death. Her murder was one of three attacks on Indo-Canadian women in the Vancouver area over a two-week period in 2006, two of them fatal.

The incidents sparked an outcry within the South Asian community about domestic violence and prompted several heated public forums on what had largely been a taboo subject.