Manslaughter plea rejected in 2006 B.C. murder case

B.C.'s former attorney general blocked a deal that would have seen a man eventually convicted of murdering his wife plead his charge down to manslaughter instead, a Crown prosecutor spokesman has revealed.
Former B.C. attorney general Wally Oppal turned down a manslaughter deal in murder case 1:58

Former B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal cancelled a deal that would have seen a Surrey man who killed and burned the body of his wife plead guilty to manslaughter, a spokesman for the Crown prosecutor says.

Mukhtiar Panghali was eventually found guilty of the second-degree murder of his pregnant wife Manjit in 2006. Her charred remains were found by a road in Delta.

Spokesman Neil Mackenzie said Monday that Crown prosecutors and Panghali's lawyer had a plea deal worked out, but Oppal rejected it.

"Opinions about the likely outcome of a case can reasonably be different among the most experienced lawyers," Mackenzie said.

Mukhtiar Panghali made a tearful plea for the return of his wife in a news conference after her disappearance, but was later convicted of her murder. (CBC)

"Certainly the outcome of the case indicates that the attorney general's assessment of the strength of the case was an accurate reasonable conclusion. It doesn't necessarily indicate the assessment made by the trial Crown was unreasonable at the time."

Mackenzie said it is rare for a B.C. attorney general to provide direction in a specific case, which has happened only six times since 1995.  

After Oppal's intervention, the Criminal Justice Branch appointed Dennis Murray as a special prosecutor in February 2009 to take charge of the case to ensure there was no perception of improper influence in the prosecution of the case.

Panghali, a high school science teacher, sought to overturn the conviction but his appeal was rejected last October. 

With files from The Canadian Press