British Columbia·Timeline

A timeline of the Air India case, from the bombings to the death of an old suspect

The Air India bombings in June 1985 are considered the worst mass murder in Canadian history. The subsequent investigation and prosecution lasted nearly 20 years, becoming the most expensive in Canadian history at nearly $130 million. This is a timeline of the case.

The case is back in the spotlight after an old suspect was gunned down in Surrey, B.C. on Thursday

A man with a black turban and long grey beard is flanked by numerous people in a press scrum.
Ripudaman Singh Malik, in grey, smiles as he leaves B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver in 2005 after being acquitted in the 1985 Air India bombing. Malik was shot and killed in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday. (Lyle Stafford/REUTERS)

The Air India bombings in June 1985 are considered the worst mass murder in Canadian history. The subsequent investigation and prosecution lasted nearly 20 years, becoming the most expensive in Canadian history at nearly $130 million. 

On Thursday, the case returned to the spotlight after an old suspect was gunned down in Surrey, B.C.

This is a timeline of the case.

For clarity, times are shown in UTC unless otherwise noted.

The flights

June 22, 1985:

A man identified as Manjit Singh checks in for a Canadian Pacific (CP) flight from Vancouver to Toronto at 3:30 p.m. UTC (6:30 a.m. PT).

He asks the agent to ensure his suitcase is transferred to Air India Flight 182, which is leaving Montreal the following day. The agent initially hesitates, since Singh's seat on the CP flight is not confirmed, but eventually allows the bag through.

Nearly three hours later, CP Air Flight 60 leaves for Toronto. Singh is not on board.

The flight arrives in Toronto at 8:22 p.m. Various passengers and baggage transfer to Air India Flight 182, which is bound for the U.K.

Meanwhile, another man identified as "L. Singh" checks in for a CP flight from Vancouver to Tokyo. He brings one piece of luggage, which is to be transferred to Air India Flight 301 to Bangkok.

The second CP plane later leaves without "L." on board.

June 23, 1985:

At 12:15 a.m., Flight 182 takes off from Toronto and heads to Montreal.

The plane then leaves Montreal for Heathrow Airport in London, bound for Ireland. There are 329 people on board: 307 passengers and 22 crew.

Meanwhile, as Flight 182 is in the air, an explosion in the baggage terminal at Tokyo's Narita International Airport kills two baggage handlers at 6:19 a.m. 

Investigators would later determine the explosive was intended for Flight 301, but suspect the blast went off too soon because perpetrators failed to account for the fact that Japan does not observe daylight saving time.

The downing of Air India Flight 182 in 1985

37 years ago
Duration 6:57
Sunday Report on CBC-TV carries a report on Britain's Royal Navy's search for survivors and wreckage from a jet carrying 329 people – most of them Canadian. Aired June 23, 1985.

Less than an hour after the Tokyo blast, at 7:14 a.m., the Flight 182 plane disappears from radar screens off the west coast of Ireland. A bomb hidden in a suitcase on board explodes and the plane breaks apart, 31,000 feet over the Atlantic Ocean.

Everyone on board is killed. Officials would recover 132 bodies, while 197 were lost at sea.

At 8:05 a.m., Flight 301 — the intended target of the airport bomb — leaves Tokyo without incident. 

The investigations

The RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) both launched investigations into the bombings.

Nov. 8, 1985:

The RCMP raid the homes of Talwinder Singh Parmar and Inderjit Singh Reyat.

They lay various weapons, explosives and conspiracy charges. Police say the arrests are part of their investigation into the Air India disaster, but charges against Parmar are soon dropped for lack of evidence.

Reyat is convicted of weapons offences and fined $2,000. No link to Air India is established in court.

Inderjit Singh Reyat, left, and Talwinder Singh Parmar are shown at the courthouse in Duncan, B.C., on Nov. 8, 1985. (Chuck Stoody/Canadian Press)

Jan. 22, 1986:

The Canadian Aviation Safety Board, now known as the Transportation Safety Board of Canada, determines a bomb brought down Air India Flight 182.

February 1988:

Reyat, a mechanic, is arrested in England and charged with making the bomb that exploded at Tokyo's Narita Airport. The investigation found the bomb had been planted inside a Sanyo radio tuner, which officers traced back to a sale to Reyat from a shop in his hometown of Duncan, B.C.

Dec. 13, 1989:

Reyat is extradited to Canada.

Sept. 17, 1990:

Reyat's trial opens.

May 10, 1991:

Reyat is convicted of two counts of manslaughter and four explosives charges related to the Narita Airport bomb explosion. He is sentenced to 10 years behind bars.

Oct. 15, 1992:

Police in India announce they have killed Parmar, 48, in a gun battle in Bombay. (CBC Radio would later report evidence Parmar had been in Indian police custody for some time prior to his death and was interrogated about the Air India bombing.)

1995:

Tara Singh Hayer, a newspaper publisher and moderate Sikh in Surrey, B.C., gives an affadavit to RCMP saying he heard Bagri admit to a friend that he'd been involved in the bombings. RCMP say they would protect Hayer, a known threat to the suspects.

An excerpt from newspaper publisher Tara Singh Hayer's statement to the RCMP. (CBC)

May 31, 1995:

The RCMP offer a $1-million reward for information leading to a conviction in the Air India disaster.

Dec. 11, 1996:

The RCMP announce charges will be laid in the Air India case within the next few months. Many months pass without charges being laid.

Nov. 18, 1998:

Despite the RCMP's assurances of protection, Hayer is shot dead in Surrey, B.C. After his death, his evidence becomes inadmissible.

Tara Singh Hayer received the Order of B.C. in 1995. (CBC)

Jan. 26, 2000:

A former CSIS agent tells the Globe and Mail he destroyed 150 hours of taped conversations with Sikh informants rather than turn evidence over to the RCMP. The agent says he feared the Mounties would fail to protect identities of informants.

Oct. 27, 2000:

The RCMP arrest Ripudaman Singh Malik, a businessman from the Vancouver area, and Ajaib Singh Bagri, a millworker from Kamloops, in connection with the bombing of Air India Flight 182.

The charges include 331 counts of first-degree murder.

Jan. 10, 2001:

Malik and Bagri are denied bail.

June 4, 2001:

The RCMP arrest Reyat on seven new charges including, murder, attempted murder, conspiracy in the Air India bombing and the explosion at Tokyo's Narita Airport.

Because Reyat is a British citizen already extradited to Canada for his previous trial on the Narita charges, Britain has to agree before these further charges could go ahead.

The trials

June 4, 2001:

The British government gives Canada permission to charge Reyat in connection with the Air India bombing. He is formally charged two days later with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy in the Air India bombing and the explosion at Narita Airport.

Dec. 20, 2001:

Justice Patrick Dohm postpones Reyat's trial from February 2002 to November 2002, to include him in the trial of Malik and Bagri.

Feb. 10, 2003:

In a dramatic turn of events, Reyat pleads guilty to one count of manslaughter and a charge of aiding in the construction of a bomb. All other charges against him are stayed and he is sentenced to five years in prison. The guilty plea raises speculation that he would testify against Malik and Bagri.

Inderjit Singh Reyat walks outside B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver in this Sept. 10, 2010 photo. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

April 28, 2003:

The trial of Malik and Bagri begins. A multimillion-dollar, high-security courtroom called Courtroom 20 is built specifically for the trial.

June 2, 2003:

Opposition MPs call for an inquiry into accusations that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) blocked the RCMP investigation into the bombing.

According to RCMP documents, CSIS ordered the destruction of hours of wiretaps to conceal the fact that one of its agents, Surjan Singh Gill, had penetrated a circle of Sikh extremists planning the attack. He was ordered to pull out three days before Air India Flight 182 blew up.

Nov. 4, 2003:

The Crown's key witness testifies that Malik confessed to the bombing of the Air India flight. The woman describes how she and Malik fell in love in the early 1990s. 

March 1, 2004:

An FBI informer testifies that Bagri admitted his involvement in the bombings a few weeks after they occurred, saying, "We did this."

April 15, 2004:

In her third appearance at the trial, a key Crown witness, who cannot be identified, says she couldn't remember a visit with Bagri caught on CSIS surveillance tapes. In one hour of testimony, the witness answers "I can't remember" more than 20 times.

A member of the RCMP looks over wreckage from Air India Flight 182 as it sits on display in an undisclosed location in Vancouver on June 15, 2004. (Andy Clark/REUTERS)

Oct. 19, 2004:

The Air India trial enters its final phase: closing arguments. Lawyers for Malik and Bagri tell the court their clients had nothing to do with the bombs on Flight 182 and at Tokyo's Narita Airport.

Dec. 3, 2004:

After 19 months, the Air India trial wraps up.

March 16, 2005:

Malik, then 58, and Bagri, then 55, are acquitted of all charges. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Josephson found the Crown's key witnesses, who testified that they heard the two defendants confess, were biased and unreliable. 

Ripudaman Singh Malik, left, leaves B.C. Supreme Court in 2005 after being acquitted in the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182. (Lyle Stafford/REUTERS)

"These hundreds of men, women and children were entirely innocent victims of a diabolical act of terrorism unparalleled until recently in aviation history," read the ruling

"Justice is not achieved, however, if persons are convicted on anything less than the requisite standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt." 

Ajaib Singh Bagri and Ripudaman Singh Malik are found not guilty of murder, attempted murder and conspiracy. Aired on CBC Radio's The World at Six on March 16, 2005.

The aftermath

June 7, 2005:

Families of the victims of the Air India bombing meet with Prime Minister Paul Martin in Toronto, the first time any prime minister has met with the families. Martin promises to join them at a ceremony in Cork, Ireland, on the 20th anniversary of the disaster on June 23. Flags across Canada would also be lowered to half-mast that day.

May 3, 2005:

The B.C. Ministry of the Attorney General sends an e-mail to the families of those who died in the Air India bombings telling them the Crown will not appeal the acquittals of Malik and Bagri. The e-mail says the ministry made "the difficult decision that there are no grounds on which the Crown could launch an appeal."

May 1, 2006:

The federal government announces a public inquiry into the bombing, to be led by retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice John C. Major. 

June 17, 2010:

Major releases his final report. Over more than 3,200 pages, he tears into the government and its "wholly deficient" agencies. He says failure to prevent the bombing was "inexcusable," the CSIS was "ineffective" and notes a "lax security culture" at airports. The RCMP "failed" to protect threatened witnesses, he adds.

Major says he cannot understand why CSIS deleted its wiretap tapes: "Inconceivable, incomprehensible, indefensible, incompetence," he writes.

Air India report

12 years ago
Duration 3:27
The failure by the Canadian government and its agencies to prevent the Air India bombing has been called 'inexcusable,' the CBC's Terry Milewski reports

He also says successive governments had treated the victims' families "like adversaries, as if they had somehow brought this calamity on themselves." Politicians' failure to plug security holes was "inexcusable."

The inquiry concludes Talwinder Singh Parmar was the mastermind behind the deadly bombing. 

June 22, 2010: 

Twenty-five years after the bombings, Canada apologizes to the families.

PM at Air India memorial

11 years ago
Duration 5:48
Excerpts of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's speech at the unveiling of a national memorial in Montreal to the 1985 bombing victims

Jan. 7, 2011:

Reyat is sentenced to nine more years behind bars for perjury after lying during the Air India trial. At the time, it was the country's longest sentence for perjury. Reyat would ultimately serve 30 years in prison for all of his offences before his release in January 2016.

July 12, 2012:

A B.C. Supreme Court judge rejects Malik's attempt to get back $9.2 million in legal fees.

In a lawsuit, Malik had claimed the Crown knew the case fell short of standards, but turned a blind eye and pursued the case regardless under pressure from the public.

July 14, 2022:

Malik is shot and killed outside one of his businesses in Surrey, B.C. RCMP believe his death was targeted, but say a motive is not immediately clear.

Malik, who was in his mid-70s, continued to have significant influence over the Sikh community in Canada in his later life. He also served as chairman with Khalsa Schools and ran the Khalsa Credit Union, which has more than 16,000 members.

With files from Terry Milewski

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