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Murder at market the only blot on police record; CRIME: Killer on run for seven years.

A SEVEN-YEAR manhunt that has stretched across the world has still not caught up with the killer of a market trader.

Jaswant Singh Sandhu was shot in the chest at point-blank range as he worked on his market stall in Blackwood. Since then, police have been looking for a fellow trader, Mohammed ``Bobby'' Basharat.

Officers from several police forces are still working to try to bring the killer to justice but admit they have come up against a number of obstacles. These include the recent racial tension in Basharat's home town, Oldham, Lancashire.

As a result the case remains the only unsolved murder in the Gwent Police area.

Father of two Mr Sandhu, 31, was fatally wounded as he shut up his family's clothing stall in Blackwood's market on the evening of May 26, 1995, not long after he had apparently had a row with another man about the price of T-shirts.

Mr Sandhu's family, who live in Wolverhampton, put up a substantial reward in the hunt for the killer and detectives revealed they wanted to trace Basharat, who was then 22, in connection with the incident.

After the murder the gunman was said to have taken a taxi to Newport. There was then an armed siege in Newport but the man escaped.

In 1999 Gwent Police launched a fresh inquiry into the murder. A team led by Gwent's head of CID, Detective Superintendent Ian Johnston, followed up a number of new leads, including those which resulted from an appeal on the BBC Crimewatch programme. An incident room was set up at Oldham police station to take any calls.

For the past three years Gwent Police have been liaising with Greater Manchester Police in Oldham. The investigation has also taken officers to Germany and leads were followed up in Islamabad and Pakistan.

Detectives now believe Basharat has returned to the UK but they still have no idea where he is.

The deputy senior investigating officer in the case, Detective Inspector Andrew Williams, said yesterday, ``From the outset we have been looking for Basharat.

``It was a difficult inquiry from the start. All witnesses are 200 miles away in Oldham. It is also difficult because of the racial situation.''

Det Insp Williams said the area where the Basharat family lived was right on the border of the estate where the recent race riots took place.

``We are liaising with Greater Manchester Police, who are very much aware of it, and we still have a lot to do with Oldham police,'' he said.

Until 1995 and the death of Jaswant Singh Sandhu, Gwent Police had a 100pc record for solving murder cases, going back 23 years.

Det Insp Williams said, ``We are still committed to bringing it to a successful conclusion.

``We have to look at it from the victim's family's point of view because after seven years it must be difficult for them and I know they want justice to be done.

``We would also make a new appeal for information.''

Timeline

u May 26, 1995: Father of two Jaswant Singh Sandhu is fatally shot in the chest at point-blank range as he works on his market stall in Blackwood at 6.15pm. Police start looking for fellow trader Mohammed ``Bobby'' Basharat, who disappears after the incident.

u February 1999: Although the case file has never been closed, police launch a fresh inquiry into the murder of Mr Sandhu. Gwent Police detectives, led by Detective Superintendent Ian Johnston, liaise with Greater Manchester Police in Basharat's home town of Oldham. Detectives also follow up a number of leads arising from an appeal on the BBC's Crimewatch programme.

u May 2002: Police are still looking for Basharat, who is believed to have had an argument with Mr Sandhu before running off. He has not been seen since the day of the murder.

EMMA JAMES Crime Reporter

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MURDER VICTIM: Father of two Jaswant Singh Sandhu, 31
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 2, 2002
Words:654
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