By Jennifer Saltman
NEW WESTMINSTER — Gursimar Bedi, who was accused of acting as the “eyes and ears” of the man convicted of murdering Maple Batalia in Surrey, has been acquitted of manslaughter, but convicted of being an accessory to murder after the fact.
The decision was delivered by a judge in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster on Friday morning.
Batalia, 19, was shot three times by her ex-boyfriend Gurjinder Dhaliwal as she left Simon Fraser University’s Surrey campus around 1 a.m. on Sept. 28, 2011. Dhaliwal also used a knife to slash the top and back of her head.
According to admissions agreed to by Crown and defence at the beginning of Bedi’s trial, a few days prior to the offence Bedi rented a white, four-door 2011 Dodge Charger. The Crown alleged Dhaliwal enlisted Bedi’s help to rent the car because he was prohibited by a court order from contacting or being anywhere near Batalia and he needed a different vehicle if he wanted to follow her.
The Crown also alleged Bedi kept tabs on Batalia at SFU on two nights — including the night she was killed — and reported back to Dhaliwal. Dhaliwal was jealous and had wanted to know if Batalia was with a male friend. Bedi was seen at SFU Surrey by acquaintances and on video recordings, and his cellphone signal was picked up by towers in the area.
The Crown also alleged Bedi was present when the shooting occurred and that Dhaliwal drove him home afterward. The defence argued at trial that Bedi was not there.
The next morning, according to the admissions, Bedi went to work by taxi, arriving just after 7 a.m. His co-workers noticed he was unfocused and somewhat distraught, and his foreman sent him home around noon.
That afternoon, Bedi tried to return the rental car and was told he would be charged if the gas tank was not full. He then filled the car with gas and cleaned the exterior at a car wash before returning it.
During the days that followed, it was alleged Bedi offered Dhaliwal an alibi and provided him with information about the police investigation. The defence argued Bedi was preoccupied with the potential that he himself would be implicated, and any information he provided to Dhaliwal was moot.
At the end of the trial, the Crown invited Justice Terence Schultes to acquit Bedi of manslaughter because the necessary mental element for a conviction had not been established by the evidence, and Schultes agreed.
Schultes said in his decision that the Crown’s case on the accessory charge was based on inferences to be drawn from circumstantial evidence. Based on some of that evidence, he found Bedi guilty of being an accessory to murder after the fact.
A sentencing date will be fixed on June 9.
Dhaliwal pleaded guilty in March to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 21 years.