This story has been updated with additional information.
In a bombshell start to what was supposed to be a five-week trial, Surrey resident Tejwant Danjou pleaded guilty to second-degree murder against the advice of his counsel on Tuesday (Feb. 25).
Danjou delivered his plea adamantly with his fists clenched and pressed up against the edge of the prisoners’ box in a BC Supreme Court in Kelowna.
“Guilty,” he said when asked how he pled to the charges, shocking both defence and Crown counsel.
His defence lawyer, Donna Turko, was quick to correct him.
“No, Mr. Danjou is not guilty,” she said.
BC Supreme Court Justice Alison Beames asked Turko if she needed to consult her client but Danjou again jumped in.
“I don’t need to speak to anybody, my lady. I’m guilty,” he said.
Beames called for a 15-minute recess so Turko could speak to Danjou but upon their return, nothing had changed and the court accepted his plea.
Danjou said the crown offered him a 10-year sentence in a plea deal. As second-degree murder comes with a mandatory life sentence, this likely pertains to his parole eligibility.
Despite what the Crown may have offered him, Beames made it clear the sentencing decision is ultimately up to her.
While Danjou expressed his wish to have sentencing completed on Tuesday, Beames said the date is tentatively set for March 13.
Circumstances surrounding the murder have yet to be revealed but lawyers will meet Wednesday morning (Feb. 26) to submit an agreed statement of facts to the court.
Danjou was arrested on July 22, 2018, after police were called to the Best Western hotel in the 3400-block of Carrington Road following a report of a woman in need of assistance.
Police said the woman, later identified as Rama Gauravarapu, died that night and Danjou, who was 69 years old at the time, was charged with killing her.
According to RCMP, the two were known to each other and a code used on Danjou’s court file is reserved for cases where the victim and accused are in, or were previously in, a close and personal or intimate relationship.
Gauravarapu had been a financial planner at a Surrey Royal Bank branch for 20 years.
Danjou had been a real estate agent and after he was charged his real estate licence was suspended by the Real Estate Council of British Columbia.
Bombshell to start the trial. Tejwant Danjou pleads guilty. Danjou stood up and plead guilty as his counsel attempted to correct him but Danjou seems adamant. More to come.
— Michael Rodriguez (@MichaelRdrguez) February 25, 2020