A construction company boss has been found guilty of murdering his wife after enlisting the help of a mystery female accomplice.
The unidentified woman was caught on CCTV leaving the home of Gurpreet Singh following a 50-minute visit during which his wife Sarbjit Kaur was strangled.
Singh, who was jailed for life with a minimum term of 19 years on Wednesday after being convicted, tried to pass the killing off as a botched burglary and denied playing any part in his wife’s death.
A two-month trial at Birmingham Crown Court heard 45-year-old Singh allowed his children to enter the family home despite knowing their stepmother’s lifeless body was inside the property.
Jurors were told that the hooded accomplice went into Singh’s home about 13 minutes after he returned to the detached house in Rookery Lane, Penn, Wolverhampton, on the morning of February 16 2018.
The court heard his wife’s face and body were sprinkled with a form of chilli powder, which was used to incapacitate her or give the impression she had been attacked.
Jurors heard Sarbjit, aged 38, worked from home as a seamstress.
Opening the Crown’s case at the start of a retrial which began in December, David Mason QC said the CCTV system was not working at the home of Singh, whose first wife, Amandeep Kaur, died in India four years before the murder.
Mr Mason told the jury: “Although his own CCTV was disabled, he wasn’t to know that a house opposite his house had CCTV covering that house’s drive.
“It also just so happened to cover the front, or at least a good part of the front of this defendant’s house.
“What it also showed is that, a few minutes after Gurpreet Singh got home … an unknown person, who was wearing a parka with the hood up, approached his house and the gates which allowed access to the driveway and the house itself.
“That person was either let into the house or let herself into the house at almost exactly 8.15am – 13 minutes after the defendant got home.”
Describing the “devastatingly important” evidence, Mr Mason went on: “At just after 9.01am a figure comes out of the house and the boot of the defendant’s Jaguar goes up, suggesting the figure is Gurpreet Singh.
“He then goes back into the house and re-emerges a couple of minutes later and you then see his Jaguar car drive off.
“Four minutes after that, you are able to see the head of the person move away from the house and, after a short gap, no doubt the opening of the gates, you can see the same figure wearing the parka coat, walking away from the house, carrying the same bag that that figure had been carrying on the way in.”
The visitor to the house, thought to be around 5ft 2ins, was not mentioned by Singh in his account to police.
Commenting after the guilty verdict, Superintendent Chris Mallett, of West Midlands Police, said of the murder scene: “The nature of the ‘ransacking’ looked just a little bit too contrived to be real.
“One particular camera in a road opposite was hidden from sight, so you wouldn’t necessarily know it was there.
“It was when we looked at that CCTV footage that we realised that on the morning of the murder, just after eight o’clock, a woman comes to the house and makes her way across the front of the property and goes into the house.”
Mr Mallett said that after the murder Singh went about his business in a relaxed and calculated manner, believing he was creating the perfect alibi.
The officer added: “He’s even so callous as to allow his children to go into the house first on returning home that evening.
“They’d lost their first mother previously through illness, when she was out in India, and clearly they would have been traumatised by losing their biological mum.
“To then allow them to go into the house and find their step-mum dead on the floor … I think that indicates quite how callous he is as a person.”
The officer said none of the CCTV footage of the accomplice had been of good enough quality to identify her face, and she had not been traced despite repeated appeals.
Covid-related problems had delayed the trial process, the senior officer said, adding: “Three years down the line now, we are really happy that he has been found guilty and that Sarbjit’s family and indeed the children have now got the partial closure of someone being found responsible for Sarbjit’s murder.”