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Murder trial is halted as accused falls mentally-ill

PUBLISHED: 11:25 01 July 2010 | UPDATED: 11:48 23 August 2010

The trial of a builder accused of stabbing a family rival to death on a seaside promenade was halted after he became mentally-ill in the witness box. Baljinder Singh Kooner, 35, formerly of Astra Drive, Gravesend, allegedly murdered Kamaljit Singh Kalon,

The trial of a builder accused of stabbing a family rival to death on a seaside promenade was halted after he became mentally-ill in the witness box.

Baljinder Singh Kooner, 35, formerly of Astra Drive, Gravesend, allegedly murdered Kamaljit Singh Kalon, 31, from Sidcup, in front of horrified witnesses near an ice-cream kiosk in Gravesend.

It was claimed he took part in the attack with his cousin, Guljinder Singh Gurewal, 35, who has admitted the murder.

Kooner left the UK after the killing on July 10, 2003, but was arrested last year.

Giving evidence at the Old Bailey, on Tuesday, he told jurors that he did not know Gurewal was armed with a knife during the tussle.

During cross-examination by prosecutor John Price, QC, Kooner became ill.

His trial was adjourned and a medical examination found him unfit to continue.

The Recorder of London, Peter Beaumont QC, discharged the jury from reaching verdicts in the case after deciding not to continue in his absence.

He said: "When this trial resumed yesterday morning the legal team representing the defendant reported to me a deterioration in the defendant's ability to engage with them and the fact he was behaving in a way which raised concerns about his mental health.

"The defendant is currently suffering from an acute mental illness, either paranoid schizophrenia or a stress-induced psychosis.

"He is not fit to continue giving evidence or being tried at all."

Kooner will now face a retrial when he has recovered.

Jurors heard Mr Kalon was killed after he punched Kooner's sister in the face.

The married docker suffered 33 stab wounds as well as bite marks to the arm and had his throat cut.

Gurewal confessed the crime in 2008 after being caught trying to get into the UK illegally.

Mr Kalon, who worked at the Royal Albert docks in east London, lived with his wife in Sidcup, with her three children from a previous marriage.

Kooner denies murder.

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