British-Sikh woman jailed for murder of daughter-in-law freed after 16 years

London: An 86-year-old British-Sikh woman imprisoned for the murder of her daughter-in-law in a so-called “honour killing” 25 years ago has been released from jail after 16 years.

Bachan Kaur Athwal was found guilty of ordering the murder of her 27-year-old daughter-in-law, Surjit Kaur Athwal, after being lured to India in 1998.

According to The Sun newspaper, it has only emerged this week that she was freed in August last year.

She was ordered to serve a minimum of 20 years in prison by Judge Giles Forrester but the Parole Board recommended that Athwal, said to have been in poor health, should be released on licence four years earlier, the newspaper said.

Bachan Kaur Athwal was jailed alongside her son Sukhdave in 2007 for organising the murder.

The Parole Board reportedly rejected concerns raised by the UK Ministry of Justice after she allegedly slapped her daughter during a prison visit and assaulted a member of staff In May last year.

In Athwal’s appeal, the prison offender manager said that before the onset of dementia, she had not been aggressive, the newspaper reported.

Surjit Kaur Athwal had failed to return to her home in Hayes, west London, after a trip to a family wedding in India. Athwal accompanied her daughter-in-law on the trip in December 1998.

The Old Bailey court in London was told during the trial how Surjit was forced to marry Sukhdave at 16.

She was bullied by the family during her marriage and later murdered due to fears that she was planning on divorcing her husband.

Jailing the mother and son in 2007, Judge Forrester said the murder was “unspeakable”.

“This was a heinous crime characterised by great wickedness,” he said.

“There was no motive worthy of the name. You did it because you thought she had brought shame on your family.” Surjit’s sister went on to set up True Honour, a charity to campaign against the issue of honour killings — when family members order the killing of someone from their own family over a perception of them having harmed the family’s honour.