HUDDERSFIELD’S Sikh community has paid tribute to a well-known shopkeeper killed in a raid on his store.
Gurmail Singh, 63, tragically died from head injuries sustained during a robbery at his Cowcliffe Convenience Store.
Police have launched a murder investigation after Mr Singh was found bleeding on the floor of his shop following the incident at 8.30pm on Saturday.
He was taken to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary but died at 3.30am yesterday.
Around six customers at the nearby Shepherd’s Arms pub attempted to prevent the robbers from escaping, but the suspects all made off.
Police are now hunting the culprits – four men in their late teens wearing dark hooded tops and tracksuit bottoms.
Only a small amount of cash, cigarettes and confectionery were stolen during the raid.
Mr Singh, who has a wife and three children, had been running the Cowcliffe Hill Road shop for about four years and lived with his family nearby.
Yesterday Mr Singh’s brother Piara Singh Hayre, who runs Hayre Stores on Fartown Green Road, was too upset to speak, but his son confirmed members of the family had gathered at the shop to mourn.
Jas Sohanpal, education secretary from Springwood Sikh Temple, said members had been coming down to pay tribute to Mr Singh.
He said: “Obviously we’re all shocked and saddened by the news – shocked that people like him who provide a service to the public can end up like this.
“People have been going to the home to pay their respects to the family.
“It’s early days but we will try and organise something (in honour of him).”
Clr Mehboob Khan, the leader of Kirklees Council, said he had known Mr Singh personally and was shocked at his death.
He said: “I lived across from him for about nine years when I lived in Fartown.
“He would not hurt a fly. He was a very generous and peaceful man.
“He was a family man and a very hard working guy often working 18 hours a day.
“I had a lot of time for him and I’m very sad that he’s gone.”
Clr Khan said he and Clr Mohan Sokhal had organised an emergency meeting of the Sikh community at Huddersfield Police Station yesterday and attended a session at the Sikh Temple afterwards to appeal for information.
Police have confirmed a group of six witnesses from the Shepherd’s Arms pub opposite the shop were involved in a struggle with two of the robbers as they tried to prevent them escaping.
They are looking into reports that one of the youths was carrying a hammer – but have not confirmed if one was used to assault Mr Singh.
Officers are also investigating possible links to an incident on Thursday evening when Mr Singh was involved in altercation with two youths who allegedly tried to steal from his shop.
Billy Pickup, landlord of the Shepherd’s Arms, said a group of drinkers had been outside smoking when they saw the raid unfold.
He said: “They saw two of them come out of the shop.
“One of our locals went across and could see there were still two robbers inside.
“He tried to hold the shop door shut to try and keep them inside but they had a hammer and they tried to smash their way out. In the end they escaped out the back door.
“The shop was all smashed up and bottles broken. Mr Singh was laying there on the floor, in the corner. There was a lot of blood.”
Police cordoned off the area and a white tent could be seen outside the pub as forensics experts examined the scene.
Mr Pickup, 60, added: “The Singh’s have been here for around four years, the shop was empty for two years before that but they have turned it into a good business.
“They have three children, two boys and a girl, all in their 30s I think.
“He was such a lovely man, this is a real tragedy.”
Sharon Pickup, 58, said Mr Singh had been robbed by two lads the week before, saying: “They didn’t take any money but they pushed the till to the floor and grabbed cigarettes. They looked like teens.
“Everything happened so quickly last night, it all took about three or four minutes and the police were there in 15 minutes.
“The paramedics came and took him away. I couldn’t believe it when I had heard he had died in hospital.
“The whole family are lovely, they would do anything for anybody – [they’re] really hard workers.”
Neighbour Sandra Ward, 62, added: “He was a lovely man, I always had a good chat with him when I went in. It is such a shock.”
Barbara Batten said he would often visit her late mother's house if she was unable to get out, or drive her back home.
She said: “She had difficulty in walking and often Mr Singh would insist that she let him run her back up the incline to her bungalow in his car.
“In the winter, if the weather was too bad for her to go out, she would telephone and he would deliver to her door. Both he and his wife were so very kind to her.
“Mr Singh was a real gentleman and will be sadly missed. I would like to send my condolences to his wife and family.”
Senior investigating officer, Det Supt David Pervin, said: “Mr Singh was a well known and popular local businessman who had been in this area many years.
“I appeal for anyone with information to contact us as a matter of urgency.”
A postmortem on Mr Singh is due to take place today.
Police are appealing for any witnesses to ring 0845 6060606 and ask for Huddersfield Police Helpdesk.