Edmonton

Woman told police husband killed nephew but testimony differs during trial

Hours after being shot, a woman told police her husband may have killed her nephew and tried to kill her because she was away from home in the company of another man, court heard.

Gamdar Brar has pleaded not guilty to both charges he faces

Gamdur Brar sits in the back of a police vehicle on May 7, 2021 after being placed under arrest for murder and attempted murder. (RCMP/Court exhibit)

Hours after being shot, a woman told police her husband may have killed her nephew and tried to kill her because she was away from home in the company of another man, court heard.

A voir dire opened Friday at a trial for Sherwood Park funeral home owner Gamdar Brar, who is accused of first-degree murder in 19-year-old Harmanjot Bhattal's May 2021 death, and of attempting to kill his wife Satvir Brar with a firearm.

A voir dire – a trial within a trial – is underway because Crown prosecutors are seeking permission to cross examine Satvir Brar, who is their own witness. The Crown is arguing that her testimony so far during the trial contradicts what she said during a 90-minute interview with RCMP in the hours following the shooting.

Usually, the Crown can only direct question one of their own witnesses. Being allowed to cross examine her would allow for a different style of questioning. 

While testifying in the trial, Satvir Brar said she doesn't know who was driving her family's black BMW as it pursued her and her nephew through Sherwood Park on May 7, 2021, or who shot them.

During the voir dire Friday, prosecutors played a recording of her conversation with RCMP officers about three hours after she'd been shot.

She spoke to police in the emergency room at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton while awaiting surgery. Her hand and arm were injured in the shooting.

In the recording, Satvir Brar tells police about a fight with her husband the night before at their Strathcona County home where they lived with their two sons.

"I don't know what I did wrong," she said, explaining that sometimes he would get mad and swear at her.

She told him she was leaving and he told her not to come back, she told police. 

She walked for 40 minutes and then called her nephew to come pick her up. After trying to check into a hotel and deciding against it, they drove to her sister-in-law's house in Edmonton, she told police.

While there, Satvir Brar said she spoke on the phone with a police officer who'd been called to her home, and asked them to wait there for her but she said they told her they wouldn't.

"The police officer shouldn't have left when I asked them to stay," she said on the recording.

She said she also spoke to one of her sons who was crying and told her his father told them she was with another man.

She said she decided she wanted to go home and to bring Bhattal with her so she could show her family it was just her nephew.

She was driving with Bhattal in the Mitsubishi when one of her sons called to warn her that Gamdur Brar was waiting for her at the gates of their acreage with a gun, she told police.

Gamdur Brar stands next to his BMW in the driveway of his family home. This screenshot was pulled from RCMP dashcam footage filmed as RCMP officers left his house after he filed a missing persons report on his wife Satvir Brar. A crack in the police vehicle's windshield obstructs the image. (RCMP/Court exhibit)

They ended up stopping in a Sobeys parking lot, which is when Satvir Brar said she saw a black BMW that she believed her husband was driving.

She called her sons and told them to come meet her while their dad was gone. Her oldest son had recently gotten his drivers license.

She told police that at that point, the BMW began following them. She says she was so worried she ran a red light but then decided to slow down so the BMW could catch up.

"I thought he's going to check on us and then he's going to be satisfied when he sees it's my nephew," she said. 

She told police she's not sure if the two cars collided first or if she and Bhattal were shot first.

When both cars came to a stop, she got out and ran, and said her husband chased her.

"Gamdur comes close to me, I see a gun in his hand and I say 'I'm sorry,'" she told police.

She said at that point her husband turned around, and she ran on, eventually climbing into a vehicle with a man who called 911 and drove her to the hospital.

She said at one point she looked back and saw Bhattal had fallen to the ground.

'My husband killed him'

"What am I going to tell his parents? He died because of me. My husband killed him," she told police.

While speaking with police at the hospital, Satvir Brar said that before she was married and when she still lived in India, she was in the hospital when her cousin gave birth to Bhattal.

"I was the first one to hold Harman in my hands," she said, adding that the baby was like "her child."

When Bhattal was sent to Canada for school at 17, his aunt agreed to watch out for him. But he only lived at their home for a few days before she arranged for him to live with other young men in Edmonton. 

She said they spoke maybe once every three months, but that he'd let her know he bought a car.

In the recording, Satvir Brar also repeatedly tells police that her husband worked hard to provide for their family, and that while he got mad at her sometimes, he was very protective of her and her sons.

As an example, she told police that when she drives to Calgary to visit her sister he would call her 20 times on the way to remind her not to speed, and would tell her not to stop to go to the washroom because it wasn't safe.

She said her husband wanted her to be "a perfect woman" and she wanted to be that for him. 

In the recording she said she thinks he couldn't tolerate being told by police that she was with a strange man. 

She told police that when they first decided to get married, Gamdur Brar told her, "I would shoot you if I saw you with another man.'"

But she maintained her husband is not a bad person. 

"That's not his intention to kill me. I know him better than everybody else," she said. "He cannot live without me."

After the recording was played in court, Crown prosecutor Photini Papadatou asked Satvir Brar  to confirm she'd made the statement to police.

Satvir Brar agreed that it's her voice, but said she doesn't agree with the statement she made.

"I was already given so many medications," she said.

She agreed when defence lawyer Brian Beresh put it to her that she wasn't at her normal capacity when she spoke to police. 

Arguments in the voir dire will continue Monday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paige Parsons is a reporter with CBC Edmonton. She has specialized in justice issues and city hall, but now covers anything from politics to rural culture. She previously worked for the Edmonton Journal. She can be reached at paige.parsons@cbc.ca.

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