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Unsolved murder: Questions remain over death of Surjit Takhar found by M54

By Richard Guttridge | Shifnal | Crime | Published:

For seven years the whereabouts of Surjit Takhar remained a mystery – until a grisly discovery was made at the side of a motorway.

Surjit Takhar

The father vanished in 2008 and no trace of him was found until his remains were discovered next to the M54 in 2015.

Although the discovery answered one important question for the family of the delivery driver from Oldbury – that he was dead – many more remained.

Four years on from that grim find by motorway workers, they are no closer to knowing how Mr Takhar died or who killed him.

Speaking following Mr Takhar’s inquest last year, ex-wife Lavina Sohl said she believed his death may have been an accident and that whoever was responsible panicked and dumped his body.

Police say they will continue to work for justice for his family

However, it does not appear to be a theory shared by detectives.

The father-of-three lived a “very chaotic lifestyle” in the months before he went missing, had mounting debts and owed money to some dubious characters.

He made a 999 call after someone came to his home just days before he was missing.

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If the father owed money, it provides a possible motive for why someone may want to do him harm.

The visit to his home also adds weight to the theory he was in trouble and someone made him disappear.

Four people were arrested and interviewed in 2017 but all were released without charge.

Police have stated they believe his body was deliberately placed where it was found at the side of the motorway near Shifnal.

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The discovery of Mr Takhar’s remains was a massive breakthrough for the investigation but after years of being left, the elements took their toll.

Clues from examining the bones were hard to come by, though evidence of fractures to the nose and wrist were found.

At the conclusion of his inquest last year, Shropshire coroner John Ellery said: “It’s a great disappointment to you as a family because we don’t know what happened.”

Detective Inspector Jim Munro, who has been leading the case, said last year: “He had a very chaotic lifestyle before he went missing.

"Surjit had owned money to some of these people before his death and some of the debts had been ongoing.

“Surjit made a 999 call on October 1 when someone came to his flat, so we know he was alive then.

"It is of great disappointment that we have not been able to find how Surjit met this death.”

The M54 near Shifnal

Expert criminologist Elizabeth Yardley, from Birmingham City University, believes Mr Takhar may have been killed in an act of revenge and insists there are people out there who know what happened.

She said: “In some cases – and I think this is relevant to Surjit’s death – victim and offender are known to each other and the homicide is not a one-off event but the culmination of an ongoing dispute.

“These homicides are planned attacks where the perpetrator – or perpetrators – kill the victim in response to some perceived wrongdoing, there is an established history of conflict.

"The owing of money is a common factor in the background of these homicides – as are perceived slights against the perpetrator or a third party known to the perpetrator.

"A weapon is sought out, the victim is found and they are given very little chance to engage in an altercation before being killed.

"There is a time lapse between the initial act – which leads the offender to decide to kill the victim, for example not paying money owed – and the homicide itself.

"During this time the killer might have shared their intentions with others.

“Surjit’s death is recent enough for people still to have memories of these kind of conversations. Someone knows something.

Detective Inspector Jim Munro, from West Midlands Police Force CID

"Someone always knows something. Time is often an important factor in unsolved homicides. At the time, people may have loyalties and fears that prevent them from disclosing information. However in the time that has passed, allegiances and loyalties may have changed, people may have moved on with their lives and now be in a position to share that information.”

Ms Sohl said last year: “My head cannot get around how did he just go missing, how was he put there. Everyone knew him, he just wouldn’t vanish.

“I know there’s someone out there, I know he knew his killers and he knew who killed him.”

She added: “I’ve always said, whoever has killed him, I’m not saying they’ve gone out there to murder him. I think it was an accident, they panicked and placed him there and he was never supposed to be found.”

Police say they will continue to work to get justice for the victim’s family and have once again reached out to a mysterious caller who contacted them regarding the case three years ago.

Detective Inspector Jim Munro, from West Midlands Police Force CID, said: “We are still actively investigating the murder of Surjit Takhar.

“We also still want to hear from someone who called us in January 2016 who may have information which will assist us.

“Mr Takhar’s family continue to be supported by our specialist officers and we will endeavour to bring them the answers they deserve.”

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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