Ontario’s top court has ordered a new trial for an Ottawa man and his former lover who were convicted in the grisly slaying of the man’s wife.
Bhupinderpal Gill and Gurpreet Ronald were found guilty in 2016 of first-degree murder in the death of Jagtar Gill, who was discovered beaten, stabbed and with her throat slashed in the family’s home in 2014.
During trial, court heard the two co-accused met at the city’s transit agency, where they both worked, and eventually began a sexual relationship despite being married to other people. The pair testified their affair ended months before the killing, but court heard they remained close.
Prosecutors alleged the two plotted the murder together and Ronald carried it out, though Bhupinderpal Gill’s lawyer argued that the woman acted alone.
In a unanimous ruling released Wednesday, the Court of Appeal for Ontario said the judge who oversaw the trial erred in not allowing jurors to consider a conviction of second-degree murder for Ronald.
The appeal court said the evidence heard at trial allowed for the possibility that Ronald killed Jagtar Gill but that the murder was not premeditated, and the jury should have been permitted to consider that option.
The trial judge’s error also “unfairly undermined” Bhupinderpal Gill’s central defence that his former lover had either planned the murder on her own or done it without premeditation, by removing one of the two options under which the jury could find she had acted alone, the appeal court said.
As a result, it said, both are entitled to new trials on the charge of first-degree murder.
“I am satisfied that both appellants have established errors in law that directly affected the verdicts returned against them. I am also satisfied that the Crown cannot demonstrate that the errors caused no substantial wrong or miscarriage of justice,” Justice David H. Doherty wrote in the ruling.
Court heard the Gills married in India in 1997 and had three children. Their marriage was not a happy one, court heard, and Jagtar Gill was killed on the couple’s wedding anniversary, Jan. 29.
She was at home recovering from surgery that day, while the two youngest children were in school and the eldest, who was 15, ran errands with Bhupinderpal Gill, court heard.
Crown attorneys alleged the errands were planned so Jagtar Gill would be alone, and Ronald went to the home around noon under the pretense of borrowing some tools. They alleged Ronald used a metal weightlifting bar that belonged to her ex-lover to beat Jagtar Gill, then stabbed the woman repeatedly and slit her throat.
Prosecutors said Ronald then left the home, called Bhupinderpal Gill and met him briefly at a nearby store. They said he and his daughter then returned home to find Jagtar Gill’s body in the family room.
Bhupinderpal Gill called 911, then found the bloody weight bar and hid it in the basement, the Crown said.
On the stand, Bhupinderpal Gill said he initially picked up the bar because he was concerned there was an intruder in the house and wanted to be armed. After realizing it was his and likely one of the murder weapons, he hid it in a Christmas box because he feared it would look suspicious, he said.
Police, however, found the bar and replaced it with a replica, setting up video surveillance, court heard. A few days later, Bhupinderpal Gill removed the replica from the box and tried to get rid of it.
Ronald, meanwhile, told the court she walked into the house that day and spotted the body, then picked up a knife after stepping on it. She then realized it was probably the murder weapon and went to grab disposable gloves from a box on a table, she testified.
She said she cut herself on the knife and went to various parts of the house looking for a bandage, dripping blood along the way. When she left the home, she took the knife, gloves and the box with her, she said, and later threw the knife and gloves in a snowbank.