Unsolved Murders

Tarsem Singh Purewal

Age: 61

Sex: male

Date: 24 Jan 1995

Place: The Crescent, Southall, Middlesex

Tarsem Singh Purewal was the editor of the Punjabi-language weekly, Des Pardes, and was shot at point blank range as he shut up his office in Southall.

His body was found in the street in The Crescent, Southall at about 8.15pm by a member of the public. It was said that the gunman appeared from nowhere and shot him once through the chest. He had been pulling the shutters down on his business at the time. It was reported that although the street had been quite busy at the time, no witnesses to the shooting came forward.

He was a writer and editor for the newspaper, a Gurmukhi weekly, which he had started in 1965, which at the time had the largest circulation in Britain for a Punjabi language newspaper. It was noted the whilst he supported his Sikh homeland, he was critical of the tactics used by the Sikh government and it was considered a possibility that his murder had been a politically motivated assassination and there were rumours that Pakistani or Indian intelligence agencies had been responsible. It was also rumoured that an eight-man assassination squad from India had been hired to kill him and the police said that they were liaising with the Indian High Commission over the matter.

In response to the debate, the Indian High Commission in London issued a statement claiming its innocence in the murder which was said to have been an unusual step, saying 'Violence against any individual is not part of the Indian ethos'.

It was also heard that Tarsem Purewal had been preparing a series of articles uncovering fraud and shady practices within the separatist movement. A Canadian news reporter from the Vancouver Sun said that Tarsem Purewal had been to several Sikh terror training camps in Pakistan.

The acting editor of the newspaper said that Des Pardes had been threatened once directly and once indirectly by the Indian government and said that Tarsem Purewal had been arrested and deported from India in 1983 when he went there to visit his sick mother. The acting editor of Des Pardes said, 'The murder was not a personal matter, it's a political matter. The Indian government have crushed the Sikh movement in the Punjab with bullets and want to crush the movement abroad as well'.

The publication was also known for its controversial and outspoken coverage of local and Punjab issues. Des Pardes meant 'Home and Abroad'.

It was also noted that he had been a possible witness in the trial relating to the bombing of the Air India jumbo jet, Flight 182, over the Atlantic in 1985 for which two Canadian Sikhs were acquitted. However, he was murdered before the trial took place. He was also friends with Tara Singh Hayer who was a Sikh journalist from Canada and who had been shot in August 1998 and left in a wheelchair and then later shot dead on 18 November 1998 outside his house in Surrey, British Columbia. Tara Hayer had also been a witness in the Air India Flight 182 bombing. It was thought that they had both been murdered because of what they knew about the Air India bomb plot. The Air India bombing in 1985 resulted in 329 deaths and the men charged were all acquitted.

Tara Hayer's son later said, 'I'm sure the same organisation was behind both deaths, if not the same individual. My father and Mr Purewal were good friends, and both were investigating the same elements in the Sikh community. They are small in number, but they are involved in criminal activities, terrorism. They were trying to expose them.'.

It was also noted that he had published articles in which he accused a Sikh man who was general secretary of the International Sikh Youth Federation of stealing public funds and using it to run his own newspaper, Aawaz-e-Kaum. Tarsem Purewal was also an advocate for the separate state of Khalistan and supporter for independence in the Punjab, and had said that funds were collected at International Sikh Youth Federation gurdwaras was done so ostensibly to promote the Khalistan campaign in Punjab but were instead being kept by the International Sikh Youth Federation or being used to support the Jalandhar-based Rode-faction newspaper, Aaj-di-Aawaz.

At the time of his murder Tarsem Purewal had also been revealing information in Des Pardes about rape victims and it was thought that he might have been murdered by a family member of one of the victims as it was said that the articles had brought great shame on their families. The newspaper was also being translated into English and contained the names of the victims, their assailants, and adulterers and it was thought that the information had upset certain members of the Sikh community. It was also heard that the information that he had published was based on court cases which would have made the publishing of the information contempt of court by breach of court rules but because his publication was in Punjabi, the British legal authorities had no idea that he was publishing it.

At a press conference shortly after his murder, a Detective Superintendent said 'His newspaper takes a particular stance on community issues such as individuals' personal lives or the way people run their businesses. There are often articles about individuals in the community and their personal lives and their business associates and the ways they run their businesses. I believe Mr Purewal had many friends in the community but also many people who disagreed with what he was doing. He talked about people's relationships outside marriage and he put names to it. I think that's the attraction of the newspaper. People buy it to see if they are in it or to see if anyone they know is in it.'.

Seven people were arrested over his murder in Birmingham after raids and a man that was thought to have been involved in the murder, who was the editor of another Sikh newspaper Awaze Quam, was later deported, but no one was charged.

Tarsem Purewal had a wife and two children.

*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.