VANCOUVER – Two months before she was kidnapped and murdered in a so-called honour killing in India, a young British Columbia woman walked into the suburban Vancouver RCMP detachment near her home with a plea for help.
Jaswinder “Jassi” Sidhu walked out about 45 minutes later with the telephone number for the Indian consulate, although police had received repeated calls in the past from her and others about her situation.
“She advised me that she had concerns for the safety of her husband, who was in India, and she also mentioned that she felt there was some harm that was going to come to him,” Cpl. Andy Cook testified Wednesday at the extradition hearing of Sidhu’s mother and uncle.
Cook took a statement from the 25-year-old woman, who told him she’d married against the wishes of her family.
“She advised me, initially, she said she felt that her uncle was going to harm her husband,” he testified in B.C. Supreme Court.
On June 8, 2000, Sidhu’s body was found in a canal near a village in Punjab, where she had gone to reunite with her husband after fleeing her family home.
Sidhu’s mother, Malkit Kaur Sidhu, and her uncle, Surjit Singh Badesha, face extradition to India to face charges of conspiracy to commit murder.
Although others have testified of the increasing fear Sidhu felt for her own life after her family discovered her secret marriage, Cook did not say she mentioned concerns for her own safety.
Justice Gregory Fitch has heard testimony from friends that Sidhu had been in contact with police repeatedly, and ultimately had an officer escort her to the family home to pack her things and leave.
Earlier this month, a woman who rented the basement suite from the family testified that she called police several times to report domestic disturbances at the home.
But Cook said Sidhu told him her uncle had gone to India.
“Based on our conversation, I was able to determine that the complaint she had was the alleged action taking place in India,” Cook said.
“I was unfamiliar with what to do. I had four years of experience at that time.”
Cook consulted the senior officer in charge about how to proceed.
“We provided her with telephone contacts for people in the Indian consulate,” he testified. “There was not much we felt we could do in Canada at that time.”
Earlier Wednesday, the court heard from the woman who operated the beauty school Sidhu attended in 1998, the year before she married in secret in India.
Deborah Devos testified that Sidhu opened up to her teacher and classmates about her forbidden love in India, and her fears of what her uncle would do if he found out.
Devos said Sidhu confided to her that her uncle had arranged a marriage for her already.
“At one point she was upset because there was an arranged marriage to a person her uncle had chosen that was quite a lot older than her, and she said the only reason they want me to marry him is because he has lots of money. She did not want to marry him,” she said.
“The only person she wanted to marry was Mithu.”
Devos said Sidhu described a family life controlled by her uncle in which girls were not allowed to date or go to dances or parties.
“She was not allowed to have the type of social life that the boys were allowed to have,” said Devos, who recounted for the court two occasions when an uncle she identified as Badesha came into the school and angrily grabbed Sidhu by the arm to take her home.
“He grabbed her and at one point I offered to call the police and Jassi asked me not to, that it would make things worse.”
Badesha’s lawyer, Michael Klein, asked Devos about the widespread media coverage Sidhu’s death received, and about a statement she gave police 11 years ago.
Malkit Sidhu’s lawyer, David Crossin, asked Devos about what Sidhu said about her mother.
“And is it fair to say that Jassi indicated to you that her mother, because of her gender, was as much a victim in that family as Jassi,” he asked.
“I believe all the women in that family were experiencing (that),” she answered.
“A mother without power. Correct?” Crossin asked.
“A woman without power,” Devos said.
“No autonomy. Correct?”