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20 May 2014, 14:18
Four men have been sentenced to a minimum of 60 years in prison for their roles in the murder of a Chatham woman.
Appearing at Canterbury Crown Court on Tuesday 20 May, Mohammad Islam, 29, of Windmill Street, Gillingham, and Murshed Miah, 38, of Wheeler Street, Maidstone, were both given a life sentence and must serve a minimum of 25 years in prison.
Both were found guilty by a jury of murdering Harjit Chaggar and preventing a lawful burial at Canterbury Crown Court on Thursday 8 May.
Abdul Hannan, 45, of Aldon Close, Maidstone, and Rashad Miah, 27, of Otway Street, Chatham, were also found guilty of preventing a lawful burial. Hannan and Rashad Miah were both sentenced to 5 years in prison.
The sentences have brought an end to months of complex investigations by officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate.
During the eight-week trial, the court heard how in the afternoon of Monday 2 September, Harjit Chaggar, 69, visited Magpie Hall Road and Luton Road to run several errands including visiting her doctor’s surgery and buying some groceries.
Just after 3.30pm, local CCTV footage captured Mrs Chaggar visiting several shops including the Sani Globe Food store in Luton Road.
She then made her way to Magpie Hall Road where, captured on CCTV, a figure emerged from the back of Sani Globe Food. The man, wearing a white coat and apron, beckoned Mrs Chaggar over and they both entered the rear of the premises together at 4.02pm.
This was the last known sighting of Mrs Chaggar.
Her relatives contacted Kent Police after becoming concerned for her welfare when she did not return home. A missing person appeal was issued to the media and to the public in the days after urging anyone with information to come forward. Members of Mrs Chaggar’s family visited the Luton Road area, including Sani Globe Food appealing for information about her disappearance.
But on Saturday 14 September, Murshed Miah, an employee of Sani Globe Food, called Kent Police to report the discovery of a body under the floor boards of the property’s cellar.
Officers attended and found Mrs Chaggar’s body had been dumped under a trapdoor. Post mortem results found she had sustained fatal injuries to her head, neck and back and estimated she died within 24 hours of her last sighting.
Sani Globe Food manager Hannan and employees Murshed Miah and Islam were arrested on suspicion of murder in the hours after the discovery of Mrs Chaggar.
In interview, Hannan said he knew her as a regular customer and called her “auntie” although he’s not related to her. Miah and Islam said they discovered Mrs Chaggar after noticing a bad smell in the shop but the trio claimed they did not know how she came to be in the cellar.
Further investigations by detectives found the driver of a rubbish truck and recycling company visited Sani Globe Food on 3 September – the day after Mrs Chaggar disappeared. Whilst emptying the bins the driver noticed an unknown member of staff from Sani Globe Food empty several crates into the back of his truck. On further inspection, the driver noticed and retrieved a woman’s handbag – of similar description to the one belonging to the victim – which he checked before putting it back in the rubbish.
Harjit Chaggar’s son Kuldish Chaggar said: ‘The shock of losing our mother will never leave us. We pray that she is now at peace and can give us strength to carry on without her no matter what obstacles are placed in our way, for none can be bigger than losing her.
‘We remember the good times, the smiles and laughter of a loved and treasured mother and grandmother who had so many hopes and plans for the future. She was a person that loved life and lived it as best she could, with a smile on her face.’
Senior investigating officer Detective Superintendent Rob Vinson of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: ‘These sentences will hopefully bring some closure to Mrs Chaggar’s family and friends.
‘Hannan, Islam and the Miah brothers have never told us exactly what happened once Mrs Chaggar entered the rear of Sani Globe Food. Their wall of a silence means we may never know.
‘But they are now where they belong – in prison – where they can contemplate their roles in the murder of a 69-year-old lady.’