A Surrey man who was found guilty of stabbing his pregnant girlfriend to death nearly six years ago will get a new trial, as will his alleged accomplice, after their murder convictions were overturned this week.
Tasha Lynn Rossette, 21, was killed on Nov. 20, 2005, her body found two days later lying at the entry to her home near 72 Avenue and 142 Street. She had been stabbed 40 times and her throat had been slashed. Rossette was 17 weeks pregnant with her second child.
In June 2008, Amjad Khan and Naim Mohammed Saghir were found guilty in B.C. Supreme Court of first-degree murder in her death.
The Crown’s theory was that Khan, whom had a casual sexual relationship with Rossette, did not want her to have the baby, as it would bring too much responsibility and shame to his family. Khan decided to kill her, Crown prosecutors argued, and got Saghir to help.
During the jury trial in 2008, there was no forensic evidence presented linking Khan or Saghir to Rossette’s murder. The Crown’s key evidence came from two “unsavoury” witnesses who each testified Khan had tried unsuccessfully to hire them to kill Rossette.
On the night of her death, Rossette, a single mother to a then-three-year-old girl, had been out enjoying a rare evening out playing bingo, having left her daughter at a friend’s house. Khan testified he picked up Rossette after bingo, they went and got sandwiches, and he dropped her off at her home before leaving. He claimed he had nothing to do with Rossette’s murder and suggested the fatal stabbing was committed by a third party.
Khan and Saghir appealed their convictions on a number of grounds. The appeal hearing was in January and the judgment was posted online on Tuesday (Sept. 27).
In his written reasons for judgment, B.C. Court of Appeal Justice David Frankel overturned the convictions. Frankel said the Crown improperly used “oath-helping evidence,” thereby boosting the credibility of one of the so-called unsavoury witnesses. That alone, said Frankel, rendered the trial unfair.
The appeal court justice also said Khan had been improperly cross-examined about how he conducted himself during police interviews, and that the trial judge’s charge to the jury about someone else (a third party) being responsible for the murder was also flawed.
“In light of these errors the convictions cannot stand,” wrote Frankel, with Madam Justice Risa Levine and Justice Harvey Groberman in agreement.