MURDER TRIAL SCENE
PUBLISHED: 17:41 21 May 2008 | UPDATED: 09:46 23 August 2010
THE jury in the trial of a man accused of murdering a Sikh taxi driver by running him over in his own cab has visited the scene of the killing. Luke Aujila, 21, of no fixed abode, is standing trial at Maidstone Crown Court for killing Gian Chand Bajar, 7
THE jury in the trial of a man accused of murdering a Sikh taxi driver by running him over in his own cab has visited the scene of the killing.
Luke Aujila, 21, of no fixed abode, is standing trial at Maidstone Crown Court for killing Gian Chand Bajar, 71, of Darnley Road, Gravesend.
The father-of-five was found injured in St Benedict's Avenue in Gravesend in May 2007, after being run over by his own silver Skoda Octavia taxi. He died later at Darent Valley Hospital.
Mr Aujila, who at the time lived with his parents in Dorchester Road, Gravesend, has admitted killing Mr Bajar and pleaded guilty to manslaughter, but denies murder.
On Tuesday, the jury of seven men and five women travelled to St Benedict's Avenue to see the layout of the road and spent 10 minutes walking around the area.
Accompanied by a police escort and followed by the defendant in a white van with blacked out windows, they drove on to Dorchester Road, and to the alley where Aujila dumped and set fire to the taxi after driving away from the scene.
As the trial entered its third week, both prosecution and defence teams have now started summing up their case.
Last week, watched by more than 10 members of Mr Bajar's family in the public gallery, the defendant gave evidence for the first time in the witness box.
Throughout, Mr Aujila, who was dressed smartly in a black suit and shirt, maintained that he did not remember running over Mr Bajar or seeing him in the road.
He said: "I don't remember seeing anyone, or hitting anyone. I wasn't thinking of him at all.
"I just wanted to get home. What would I get from running him over? I didn't mean for this to happen. I didn't mean to hurt Mr Bajar, I didn't kick him.
"You wouldn't understand how much I regret what I have done. I took a life that didn't need to be taken from a family, that is the regret that I have."
The court heard how Aujila had been drinking in Northfleet after returning from a college course in Dartford. He had consumed six cans of cider and some of a medium-sized bottle of Bacardi. Witnesses saw him getting into Mr Bajar's taxi around 10pm on the night of May 23 in Northfleet.
In his evidence, Mr Aujila claimed he was drunk and that he did not remember getting into the taxi or even getting out of the taxi in St Benedict's Avenue. He said the first thing he remembered was being at the back of the taxi and then being grabbed by Mr Bajar.
He said: "I remember being grabbed on my left eye area. I threw a punch. He fell onto me, not right on top, but down, like falling down in front of me.
"I didn't kick no one. I just remember running to the car. I don't know why, I could have run home."
After getting into the car it was alleged that he drove to the bottom of St Benedict's Avenue where he turned the car around and then drove over the body of Mr Bajar who was lying in the road.
Tracy Ayling for the defence, said: "Do you remember going to the bottom of the road, turning round and coming back up?
Mr Aujila said: No.
Miss Ayling said: "Do you remember running over Mr Bajar?
Mr Aujila replied: "No"
"Did you see Mr Bajar in the road?" she said.
"No," Mr Aujila replied.
But under cross examination, prosecutor Alan Kent said: "I suggest this was a quite deliberate act by you in running over a man you had just assaulted. I suggest you deliberately smashed that man in."
Mr Kent told the jury: "The prosecution say it was an assault by a fit, young, strong, drunk 20-year-old on a man half-a-century his senior.
"He went down the hill towards the garages at the bottom, turned the car around and put his foot down. He didn't collide with any cars, walls, kerbs or fences, the only thing he collided with was Mr Bajar, the man he had left lying in the road."
In the first week of the trial Linda Harvey, a resident of St Benedicts Avenue at the time of the killing, said: "I saw the car try to do a three point turn. Then it drove down the hill towards the garages at the bottom.
"I could see the car coming back up the hill and it seemed to be speeding up as it came up the hill. He came round the corner. He ran the man over and drove on up the road."
Other witnesses reported hearing loud bangs and seeing part of the car come off as he drove over Mr Bajar. Pathologist David Rouse told the court there were 39 separate injuries on his body.
Mr Aujila, who had no driving licence and had not driven a car for 18 months previous to the killing, then drove the taxi to an alleyway behind his home in Dorchester Road and set fire to it by setting a lighter against the front seat.
The court heard that when he returned home that night he put the t-shirt he was wearing into the wash, which his mother Annette cleaned. His brother Thomas and his mother have both pleaded guilty to the charge of perverting the course of justice for helping him dispose of clothes he was wearing on the night.
The following day, Mr Aujila attended a second day of the college course in Dartford and was heard telling work colleagues he had been in a fight with a taxi driver. He told the court it was because he panicked and was looking for advice on what he should do, claiming he first heard Mr Bajar had died on the radio.
Mr Aujila was arrested at 5.20pm on May 24. He gave a false statement to the police where he denied being involved in the incident, but in December this year he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Mr Kent said: "He accepts he did kill Mr Bajar. What he says is that whilst he did kill Mr Bajar, he did not intend to do so.
"The defendant says he drunk so much alcohol he did not see Mr Bajar on the ground. But we say his actions were deliberate."
As the Reporter went to press the jury were due to retire to consider their verdict.