Mukhtiar Panghali, the Surrey man who murdered his wife and then burned her remains four-and-a-half years ago, will have to wait another week to find out how many years he’ll have to spend in jail before being eligible for parole.
Panghali, a former Surrey high school teacher, was convicted of second-degree murder last month in the violent death of his pregnant wife Manjit Panghali, a 31-year-old elementary school teacher.
While Mukhtiar’s conviction carries an automatic life sentence of 25 years, the court still has to determine how many years it will be – between 10 and 25 years – before he’s allowed out on parole, based on the gravity of the offence.
In New Westminster Supreme Court on Thursday morning, Crown lawyer Dennis Murray argued Panghali should serve 20 years behind bars before being paroled because of the murderer’s lack of remorse for the horrific crime.
Defence lawyer Michael Tammen asked for a period of parole ineligibility of between 10 and 13 years.
Supreme Court Justice Heather Holmes reserved her decision until March 25.
Mukhtiar, 38, did not report his wife missing until 26 hours after her disappearance on Oct. 18, 2006 and then held a tearful press conference with police where he pleaded for his wife’s return. Her burned body was discovered on a South Delta shoreline next to a truck route a few days later, and her husband was charged with second-degree murder five months later.
In convicting him in early February, Holmes said while the evidence against Mukhtiar was circumstantial, it was very powerful.
That evidence included video footage of Panghali purchasing a lighter and newspaper at a local gas station the night of Manjit’s disappearance, and cellphone records that showed Mukhtiar was using Manjit’s phone for months after her death, despite her having taken it to her yoga class the night she died. That showed she had returned home after her class that evening and that Mukhtiar was the last person to see her, said the judge.
Holmes also denied that the charge be downgraded from second-degree murder to manslaughter, saying that although Manjit’s death by strangulation may have been brief, it was extremely forceful – worse than that of a human hanging.
“Mr. Panghali meant to cause bodily harm,” said Holmes. “… and he knew it would likely cause death.”
Burning the body afterwards, she noted, showed further effort and risk taken by Panghali.
A memorial website has been established by Manjit’s family at www.manjitpanghali.com