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Halfway House diner murder: How victim Mr B's kindness led to his death

By Mark Andrews | Shrewsbury | Crime | Published:

Cold-blooded killer Belkar Singh asked cafe owner Satnam Singh Blugher for a job – and repaid his kindness by murdering him to get hold of his life savings.

Satnam Singh Blugher

Singh, an Indian national living in Britain illegally, calmly left in a taxi after stabbing Mr Blugher about 50 times and taking his savings of £47,000 cash.

By contrast, Mr Blugher was a hard-working self-made businessman, well-known in the close-knit village community of Halfway House, between Shrewsbury and Welshpool.

The murder scene

But, as the owner of Tony's Diner on the main road from Shrewsbury to Welshpool, he was known much further afield. Every summer, thousands of visitors would call into his cafe on their way to the Welsh coast, and Mr Blugher – known as Tony or 'Mr B' to his family and friends – was a familiar figure.

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A fiery perfectionist who didn't suffer fools gladly, he was likened to celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. But behind the tough facade lay a loving family man who doted on his son, daughter and four grandchildren.

An industrious self-made man, Mr Blugher had worked as a chef for 30 years. His son Hardeep, known as Harry, was also a well-known in the area, having previously kept the village post office and convenience store, and being actively involved with the village hall. He also had a daughter living in Canada.

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But Harry became increasingly concerned about some of the staff his father was employing, particularly a number of uneducated immigrants from India who were living in the country illegally.

Police at the murder scene

It was an error of judgement that Mr Blugher would pay for with his life. One of these workers, 58-year-old Belkar Singh, went on to murder his boss to steal his life savings.

Harry, 36, said it was not the first time his father had clashed with his staff, and unsuccessfully tried to persuade him to be more careful about who he employed.

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He told the trial that about 10 years ago one man had beaten his father "to a pulp", and about five years ago there was a fracas with three male staff, resulting in tables and chairs being broken.

“Some of these people were poor, uneducated workers," Harry said.

Satnam Singh Blugher

"My dad had high standards. It was never going to work. I tried to tell my dad that things like this was going to happen over and over again, until the inevitable came."

Belkar Singh arrived in Britain 12 years ago, and met Mr Blugher at a Sikh temple in Birmingham in 2007. By the time he murdered his boss, Singh's visa had run out and he was living in Britain illegally.

Singh said they both came from the same part of India, and Mr Blugher had recognised him from when he had visited his country of birth.

“He said he recognised me from India when I was giving out tickets on the bus," Singh said during his trial.

"His village was next to mine. I told him I was looking for work. He said he was looking for someone to work for him in Shrewsbury.”

The murder scene

There had been reports of tensions at the diner in the period just before the murder.

Regular William David said he heard two men arguing in a foreign language when he visited the cafe hours before the murder.

“I wasn’t familiar with the language. I thought perhaps it was Asian or maybe Urdu. It was like an argument or dispute that was going on. I couldn’t say what it was about," he said.

“It was happening just as I walked in. It sounded like a couple of people. I was thinking about my food and my family’s order.

“Mr B came towards me to serve me. I think one of the voices I had heard was his voice. I knew his voice. Sometimes when I went on there I could feel there was a tension.”

The murder scene

On June 26 last year a delivery driver called at Tony's Diner. It was normal for the cafe to be closed on a Monday, but when the delivery man was unable to attract the attention of anybody in the cafe, somebody contacted Mr Blugher's son Harry.

Harry arrived at 4.40pm that day to find his father's bloodstained body on the kitchen floor, having been stabbed about 50 times. Mr Blugher's life savings, amounting to £47,000 in cash, had also been stolen, and two days later Singh was arrested in Birmingham with the money in his possession.

But despite being caught red-handed with the money when arrested in Birmingham, Singh protested his innocence throughout the trial, concocting an elaborate and far-fetched story about how his boss came to be killed.

Far-fetched tale

Initially, he told police he had no idea of how Mr Blugher came to murdered. But after Mr Blugher's blood was found on his shirt, Singh then changed his story to an elaborate, far-fetched tale involving two mystery assailants.

Singh claimed he had been clearing up at the diner when two men entered the building, and their conversations with Mr Blugher became heated. Singh said one of the men hit Mr Blugher over the back of the head with a pan, causing him to fall to the floor, and the two men then attacked Mr Blugher with knives. Singh claimed the blood came to be on his polo shirt after one of the men touched him

But his lies fooled no-one. Waitress Christina Maddox, at the time in a relationship with Singh's friend Ram Gee, immediately became suspicious when she heard Mr Gee in a telephone call with Singh. She could not understand the conversation, which was conducted in Punjabi, but she decided to record it.

The jury was presented with the transcript of a phone call between Singh and Mr Gee, where Singh confided: "Boss is no more. He is dead. There was blood everywhere."

Singh, of Booth Street, Birmingham, never came up with an explanation as to how he found himself in possession of a suitcase stuffed with Mr Blugher's life savings. He said the money was not his, and had no idea of how it came to be in his house. Singh was also found with the previous day's takings of £800 – which included a £5 note stained with the victim's blood.

Despite the overwhelming evidence against him, Singh insisted he was on good terms with Mr Blugher, who he described as "a good friend". He claimed that the victim had helped him financially when he had needed money, and said he had lent him £1,000 to pay for a solicitor, without providing any evidence to support this claim.

Like the rest of Singh's defence, it was just another tissue of deception, and the jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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