After more than five years in prison, two men accused of killing a pregnant Surrey woman learned their fates on Friday afternoon.
In a tense courtroom in New Westminster, Amjad Khan was found guilty of first-degree murder, while Naim Saghir was found not guilty in the 2005 death of young mother Tasha Lynn Rossette.
Khan, who once had a relationship with Rossette, was handed a lifetime prison sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Josephson handed down the decision Friday afternoon (May 31).
For Rossette’s family, the guilty verdict marked a turning point in what has been a long road to healing.
“We haven’t been able to bury our daughter,” said Simone Rossette, Tasha’s mom. “She’s in the ground but she’s been alive for seven years in the media…and through court cases, but now we have to go to the second phase…”
She said she was nervous prior to the verdict, but relieved afterwards.
“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,” she said. “The right person is in there (jail) and I’m glad the other guy (Saghir) gets to go home. I think he was a pawn with the rest of them that got pulled in.”
She embraced one of the witnesses outside the courtroom, thanking him for his testimony during the trial.
Tasha’s younger sister, Michelle Dimick, said the family never doubted Khan was responsible for Tasha’s death.
“Nothing will ever comfort us, but it’s good to know that he’s there (in jail),” Dimick said, adding they still face a future without Tasha. “My family has been very silent because everybody has been traumatized in a very big way. At least now we can start to regroup our family and move on.
“Time does not heal anything. It just makes life go on.”
Dimick said she is now raising Tasha’s daughter, who was just three when her mom was murdered and is now 10.
“She’s been a blessing to us. We’re appreciative for her and we’re glad we’re left with something.”
Rossette, 21, was killed on Nov. 20, 2005, her body found two days later lying in the entry of her home near 72 Avenue and 142 Street. Her throat had been slashed and she had been stabbed 40 times. She was 17 weeks pregnant with her second child.
Khan and Saghir were both found guilty of first-degree murder after a jury trial in 2008.
But the pair appealed their conviction and in 2011 were granted a new trial, which ran for several weeks earlier this year.
At the second trial, which began in late January, Crown prosecutors alleged Khan wanted Rossette dead because she was pregnant with his child and wouldn’t get an abortion, thereby shaming his family.
Prosecutor Donna Ballyk alleged Khan drove Rossette home from Bingo the evening of her death, while Saghir waited at her suite to kill her. A former roommate of Saghir testified Saghir came home one night in 2005 with scratches on him and admitted he had killed Rossette.
The defence suggested Khan and Saghir weren’t responsible at all, instead arguing there was the possibility a third party killed Rossette. The court heard that a woman named Ruby Jubbal had paid Rossette to enter into a sham marriage with a man from India, but that Rossette kept wanting more money and threatened to tell the authorities of the marriage plot. Khan’s lawyer Robert Claus suggested there was “ample” evidence Jubball had motive, means and opportunity to murder Rossette.
But Friday afternoon Justice Josephson deemed Khan responsible for the murder, and then said he had reasonable doubt about the evidence against Saghir, clearing him of the charges. Josephson’s 47-page judgment should be released within weeks.
Khan’s father was sullen and quiet following the court decision, and chose not to speak to media. Other family members were upset and said justice had not been served.