Tuesday, April 03, 2007

killing sparks global chase

Man held in India after flight from U.S.

(Toronto Globe and Mail, April 3, 2007)

VANCOUVER, TORONTO, NEW DELHI -- Travelling at about 900 kilometres an hour over the Atlantic, on a Continental Airways Boeing 777, Avtar Grewal may have thought he had left his problems behind.

But in a blood-spattered home on the outskirts of Phoenix, Ariz., police were making links to Mr. Grewal, 32, a logistics manager from Abbotsford, B.C., that would soon trigger an international chase for the alleged killer of Navneet Kaur, his estranged wife.

Phoenix police began their investigation on Friday, just after noon, when an alarmed co-worker of Ms. Kaur's from Assist Technologies, where the 30-year-old ran a product testing team, called to say the young woman had missed work -- and there appeared to be signs of violence at her home.

By 12:30, a police team was in the affluent, newly built neighbourhood in south Phoenix on a routine "check welfare" call, but soon the home where the young woman lived alone was the focus of intense activity.

"It was very quiet. It was a hot afternoon. Police put yellow crime scene tape around the front of the house. Some of her co-workers were standing across the street in kind of the shade of the house, just waiting for detectives to come to interview them. There was a police chaplain who was there who was kind of chatting with them," said Doug Murphy, a reporter with the Ahwatukee Foothills News. Detective Bob Ragsdale said yesterday that investigators found evidence of a violent altercation in the home - and Ms. Kaur's lifeless body.

"It looks like the victim was going to seek a divorce," Det. Ragsdale said in an e-mail. "The husband was seen in Phoenix some time between 22:15 and 22:30 hours . . . outside the residence. Investigators found information from the suspect, inside the victim's residence, related to homicide. There were further indications that the husband was suicidal."

That's when the chase began.

Police soon tracked Mr. Grewal's movements to Sky Harbor International Airport, a 20-minute drive away, north on Maricopa Freeway.

There, investigators found he had taken a one-way flight to Newark, N.J. -- a major transit point in the United States for travellers bound for India.

Deborah McCarley, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said Phoenix police contacted her office, and soon, international law enforcement connections were being made.

"The Phoenix PD . . . had information that this individual was involved . . . they knew who they wanted, we just tried to figure out . . . if he was on a plane and if he was, where he was going."

By then, Mr. Grewal was aboard a Continental Airways flight bound for Indira Gandhi International Airport, in New Delhi.

Ms. McCarley said the FBI's strategic information and operations centre was called into action and soon Indian police were on the case.

"He was arrested in New Delhi when he came off the plane," said Ms. McCarley. "He didn't give the authorities any problems."

Ms. McCarley said the U.S. government has 60 days to put through paper work requesting extradition.

Meanwhile, Ms. Kaur's family has been struggling to deal with their grief. Sukmindher Singh Cheema, news director at Radio India in Vancouver, said he had spoken with Ms. Kaur's father, Rattan Singh, a former superintendent in the Indian Police Service.

He was told Mr. Grewal and Ms. Kaur had met in California at a family function and then got married in 2005 in India.

"Grewal wanted Navneet to leave her job in Phoenix and stay with him in Canada," Mr. Singh told Delhi reporters. "But Navneet, a qualified software engineer working at a senior level, didn't want to quit. This led to strained relations between the couple."

Ms. Kaur's younger brother, Sandeep Singh, told The Times of India that he spoke to his sister the morning of her death, and there were obvious tensions in the relationship.

"He [Mr. Grewal] put many restrictions on my sister Navneet and used to keep her confined. A few months back, she wanted to attend our cousin's marriage and asked him to accompany her, but he said he would not go and did not let her attend the wedding either," Mr. Singh said.