A TEENAGER who carried out a ‘despicable’ robbery at the Huddersfield store of shopkeeper Gurmail Singh was not guilty of murdering the 63-year-old, his barrister told a jury yesterday.
Rehman Afzal, 18, has already admitted snatching money from the till at the Cowcliffe convenience store, but Timothy Roberts QC said that did not make his client automatically guilty of murdering Mr Singh who was allegedly bludgeoned to death with wine bottles during an attack in February.
Mr Roberts told Bradford Crown Court yesterday that neither Afzal or his co-accused needed the money they took in the robbery.
He added: “Rehman Afzal is innocent of this charge of murder against him. He did not kill Mr Singh.
“Mr Singh was not fatally assaulted with bottles in order that Rehman Afzal could remove cash from his till.
“When Rehman Afzal entered the shop he had no reason to believe that any of those with him might seriously injure Mr Singh on purpose. Rehman Afzal never agreed to that.’’
Mr Roberts conceded that the robbery had been despicable behaviour on his client’s part and that if it had not taken place Mr Singh would still be alive.
But Mr Roberts submitted that Afzal was not legally responsible for the death because he had left the shop with the money before the fatal attack took place.
“He agreed to rob this shop in an idle moment,’’ said Mr Roberts. “He ought to have known better.
“He gave no thought to the effect that his actions would have on the shopkeeper or the shopkeeper’s family.
“He joined with a group of similarly thoughtless young men. They ganged up against an elderly man who was on his own. They didn’t even need the money. Mr Singh’s life was lost senselessly in the chaotic aftermath of this robbery.’’
Mr Roberts submitted that his client had been sober and focused on taking the cash from the till and after he had done so he told the others: “I’ve got the money let’s go.’’
He said Afzal was not detained by Mr Singh and had taken no part at all in the attack with bottles on the shopkeeper.
Mr Roberts alleged that Mr Singh had been more than a match for the two drunken youths left behind in the shop and it was because of that unexpected turn of events that those two men resorted to extreme, desperate violence.
“That is how Mr Singh died and that is why legal responsibility for his death rests only with those who participated in the fatal assault with bottles,’’ said Mr Roberts.
“Snatching cash from an old gentleman’s till drawer is mean, spiteful and unlawful but it would not have killed or seriously injured Mr Singh.’’
Mr Roberts said there was no evidence that Afzal had struck Mr Singh with a bottle or encouraged anyone else to do so.
He pointed out his client could only be criminally responsible for the death if there was clear evidence the fatal bottle attack was going on as Afzal took money from the till or if Afzal realised when he went into the shop that such violence would be intentionally inflicted on Mr Singh by others with him.
Shoaib Khan, 18, of Calton Street, Hillhouse together with Umare Aslam, 20, of Coniston Avenue, Dalton; Muawaz Khalid, 20, of Blackmoorfoot Road, Crosland Moor; Nabeel Shafi, 18, of Park Hill, Bradley, and Afzal, of Jancinth, Court, Fartown, all deny murdering Mr Singh.
Afzal and Shafi have pleaded guilty to robbery, but that charge is denied by the other three defendants.
Khan has admitted a charge of assisting an offender.
The judge is expected to begin his summing up of the evidence today with the jury likely to begin their deliberations next Monday.