Thursday will mark exactly six years since Manjit Panghali died at the hands of her husband.
And while the day will forever be a dark one for her sister Jasmine Bhambra, she was finally able to take a deep breath this week, knowing that Mukhtiar Panghali will remain in prison.
Mukhtiar Panghali’s murder conviction was upheld by the B.C. Court of Appeal on Tuesday.
Mukhtiar was convicted of second-degree murder and interfering with a dead body in February 2011 and later sentenced to life in jail with no chance of parole for 15 years. He appealed his conviction earlier this year, arguing there was insufficient direct evidence he strangled his wife or that he intended to kill her.
Bhambra learned Monday night the Appeal Court would be releasing its decision and spent a sleepless night worrying her sister’s killer would somehow find a legal loophole.
“I am so relieved,” she said after learning the appeal was denied. “I can finally breathe.”
Bhambra said her greatest concern was for Manjit and Mukhtiar’s nine-year-old daughter, who has been in her care since the murder.
“The biggest thing for me, and always has been, is Maya. If (the appeal) didn’t go the way that we wanted, then he could take her and that would not only ruin her life but our lives,” she said, choking back tears. “There’s a child’s life at stake.”
It was Oct. 18, 2006 when 31-year-old Manjit disappeared after attending a yoga class in South Surrey. Her husband, a Surrey high school teacher, didn’t report his wife missing until 26 hours later and held a press conference with police where he tearfully pleaded for Manjit’s return. Her burned body was found in South Delta less than a week later and Mukhtiar was charged with murder five months later. Manjit, who was also a teacher, was four months pregnant with her second child.
During his murder trial, the court saw video of Mukhtiar buying a lighter and newspaper at a local gas station and heard evidence that he used Manjit’s cellphone for months after her death, despite the fact she took it to her yoga class the night she died. That showed Mukhtiar was the last to see her, the judge said.
Bhambra said while people were telling her to have faith that the appeal would be quashed, she couldn’t fully move forward until the court process finished.
“It’s finally over,” she said.
She is also launching her website, www.inspiredbymanj.com Thursday. It will include Manjit’s story and who she was, says Bhambra, who will share her own life experiences. Over time, she says, it will become a place for people to connect with one another online and find inspiration.