Newlywed Manbir Kajla, an innocent man, was shot and killed when he left his vehicle to speak to another driver after a fender bender in Surrey a decade ago. Audio of the alleged murder was captured on an iPhone from a pocket dial, according to court evidence.
“I couldn’t believe it. It made me sick to my stomach that something like this could happen,” Kulbir Kajla, the victim’s brother, told Global News.
The Kajla family is now speaking out after the case against the man charged with murder collapsed in B.C. Supreme Court last month.
Samandeep Gill was acquitted of the second-degree murder of Kajla and the attempted murder of his wife, who cannot be named because of a publication ban.
“We expected so much. We were promised so much. We tried to help the Crown as much as we could. We offered a $500,000 reward for information. They said we didn’t need to do that,” Kajla said.
The iPhone recording, crucial to Crown’s case, was thrown out in March because of “egregious” and “flagrant” conduct by the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) over the years, when it came to holding evidence, said Justice Masuhara in his ruling which was finally made public last Friday. While the audio recording does not identify the shooter, the iPhone was seized by police from Gill’s home in 2011, according to court evidence.
“My brother did what any one of us would have done in that situation, which is to get out of his vehicle and exchange information,” Kulwant Basi, the victim’s sister, told Global News.
Thirty-year-old Kajla, a blueberry farmer from Delta, and his new bride were married the morning of April 27, 2011. Hours later, they ended up in a fender bender in Surrey.
“If the public listens to this audio, they will see that he hit my brother’s vehicle. When my brother was approaching him, you can clearly hear him say he’s going to kill him…Then, in the background, you hear him chambering bullets and rounds into his gun,” Kajla described.
“And in the audio, (—-) says, yo what? And my brother says you hit me. And then…you hear (—-) saying, no, no, no, I didn’t. Hold on. And then you hear him put two bullets into my brother’s heart.”
Police held the phone for almost seven years, without seeking the proper court order, violating the accused’s Charter rights, ruled Masuhara. Court evidence revealed IHIT was warned, by three senior counsel, including their own RCMP lawyer, back in 2007, that officers should not be ignoring Section 490 of the Criminal Code, which states police must get an extension order if they want to hold evidence beyond 90 days.
“To give us hope and then to snatch it away. It’s gut-wrenching,” Basi said.
“This is bigger than Manbir. This is bigger than my brother. This is about a lot of criminals getting off scot-free for a mistake or an [oversight], whatever IHIT chose not to do,” Kajla told Global News.
Despite the warnings, the practice of not complying with Section 490 continued by IHIT, raising serious questions about the potential ramifications on hundreds of homicide files in the province.
“Yes. We’re upset about our brother’s case. What worries me, even more, is that…every time there was a Section 490 breach…that IHIT did, there will be another family sitting in front of you guys and there will be another family that are in the same position,” Kajla said.
“I think the law needs to change. Three branches of justice failed. It wasn’t just IHIT that failed here…It was every single one of them because they have given the rights to the criminal…My brother had no rights.”
In my heart, we need justice, Lamber Kajla, the victim’s father told Global News.
The family wants the case appealed but a decision has not yet been made by the B.C. Prosecution Service.
This case plus many others are currently under review by an independent prosecutor, ordered by Attorney General David Eby.