Surrey marijuana grow op robbers lost key to getaway car

The court heard they tried to steal the victim's car but couldn't shut its alarm off and ran away after neighbours came

Justice Arne Silverman found Shahkar Ahmad Raja and Pawanpreet Singh Toor each guilty of break and enter

NEW WESTMINSTER — Two men have been found guilty of armed robbery, unlawful confinement and break-and-enter in connection with a marijuana grow rip at a rented house in Cloverdale last year.

The court heard the robbers had lost the keys to their getaway car.

Justice Arne Silverman found Shahkar Ahmad Raja and Pawanpreet Singh Toor each guilty of break and enter, two counts of armed robbery and two charges of unlawful confinement related to a June 15, 2015 robbery at 17961 65A Avenue, Surrey. Their trial was held in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.

Silverman noted a group of young men — as many as five — were involved in a midnight break-in at the house and a little over an hour later a police dog found Toor and Raja hiding in some bushes about 900 metres away from the residence.

The victims were a man and wife. The husband had been asleep in the living room and his wife was watching TV in a bedroom when he heard a noise in the kitchen and saw a man with a gun. The robber got in through a second-storey window and made the husband let the other robbers in through the front door. All wore black masks, the court heard.

They found the wife hiding in a closet, told the couple to lie down on the living room floor and covered them with a blanket so they couldn’t see what was going on.

“While neither the husband nor the wife were injured, they were terrified,” Silverman noted in his reasons for judgment.

The marijuana grow op was in a crawl space under the house, where several different rooms, accessed by a door in the garage, contained hundreds of marijuana plants at different stages of growth

“Each of the victims had a valid medical marijuana licence a few years earlier, but which has expired and had not been reissued and was not valid at the time of the incident,” Silverman noted. “The two victims denied that what was present was a commercial operation, and testified that the marijuana growing was for their medical conditions and personal consumption. The wife suggested the bulk of it was used making soup.”

The judge noted the house was messy, sparsely furnished and was, according to police, “more consistent with the babysitting and tending of a commercial grow op than with an actual residence.”

Silverman said he was satisfied that while some of the pot “may have been for personal use and possibly even for medical use, much of it was not.”

One robber stood guard over the couple while the others were running around, carrying large bundles of marijuana from the crawl space to a car outside. The victims overheard one of the robbers saying something to the effect of  “I can’t believe you lost my keys.”

“That helps to explain why they asked the husband for the keys to his car, which he provided. The alarm went off. They could not shut it down.”

Neighbours started gathering on the street and when one asked “What’s going on?” he was told to mind his own business. Several called 911 and the robbers ran away.

Silverman noted the only issue for him to determine was identification and that the evidence against Raja and Toor, on the question of identification, was circumstantial.

Both denied involvement in the crimes.

Both were found hiding in bushes and were arrested. Police found the husband’s watch in Raja’s pocket, Silverman noted.

“The circumstantial evidence here does lead to only one rational conclusion, and that is that these two men were in the home, in the residence on that night in question and did commit the crimes in the indictment,” he found. “In my view it is not logically possible to come to any other conclusion, and I am satisfied of that beyond a reasonable doubt.”

tom.zytaruk@thenownewspaper.com

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