The tragic end to Amarjit Chohan and Family
From the Guardian, Saturday, July 2, 2005
Supergrass at centre of ruthless drug smuggling scheme that claimed victims aged from eight weeks to 51 years
They ranged from an eight-week-old boy to a 51-year-old grandmother. But age or gender was no protection when three generations of the same family were wiped out in one of the UK’s most shocking crimes.
Amarjit and Nancy Chohan, their two sons, Ravinder, eight weeks, and Devinder, 18 months, and Mrs Chohan’s mother, Charanjit Kaur, visiting their West London home from India, all died at the hands of ruthless men, who planned to take over Mr Chohan’s haulage company, Ciba, and use it to smuggle drugs.
They killed the Chohans and Mrs Kaur and then spun a web of lies to cover up their appalling brutality.
On July 1, 2005, after a two-year inquiry involving thousands of police officers and a £10 million eight-month trial, three men, Kenneth Regan, William Horncy and Peter Rees, were convicted for their part in the murders.
When the family vanished in February 2003, Mr Chohan’s staff initially suspected he had fled with his family because he was in some sort of financial mess.
But it was almost a month later, when Onkar Verma, Mrs Chohan’s brother, flew from New Zealand, that a much more sinister story began to emerge.
Mr Verma had received a frantic phone call from his 25-year-old sister, Nancy, on February 14, 2003. She was worried because Ciba staff had told her that Amarjit had flown to Holland, but she knew his passport was at the Home Office, and a taped message from her husband, made by Regan, was in English rather than Punjabi, which the couple would have spoken on the phone.
The next day, Mrs Chohan, her sons and mother, also vanished.
It was not until the end of March (2003), however, at Mr Verma’s insistence, that the Police searched the family home in west London.
They found the washing machine full of wet clothes, an overdue ticket for Mrs Kaur’s return flight to India, and her prayer book, which she kept with her at all times. The family’s bank accounts had not been touched for three weeks, and a trip to India confirmed that Mrs Kaur was not there.
Staff at Ciba had received typewritten letters, bearing what appeared to be Mr Chohan’s signature, saying he had “had enough of England” and was taking his family back to India.
They were suspicious as Mr Chohan almost always wrote his correspondence by hand. The letters apparently handed over Ciba to Regan, who had started work there in July 2002.
Little did his colleagues know, however, that Regan was the mastermind behind the murders and one of Britain’s most terrifying criminals, willing to do anything to restore his once-lavish lifestyle.
But he was also, the Guardian can reveal, a Supergrass, who would not have been free to kill the Chohans had he not been released from jail early because he provided vital evidence against his fellow gangsters.
For at least 10 years, Regan, nicknamed Captain Cash, smuggled drugs, laundered money and obtained fake passports on a massive scale. In 1996, he was part of a plan to smuggle 15 tonnes of cannabis, worth £40 million, into the UK, in his custom-built submarine, but had to abandon the scheme after one attempt.
Regan muscled in on an insurance business, Serez International, based in London’s fashionable Regent Street. He used the premises as a front through which he laundered several million pounds of drugs money between 1996 and 1998.
He and William Horncy also supplied more than 1000 passports over a 10-year period to drug traffickers and other criminal associates.
Regan’s luck finally ran out in June 1998, when armed Police pounced during a heroin smuggling deal in north London. Regan tried to speed away in his car, running into a policewoman and injuring her. He was charged with heroin smuggling and assaulting the officer. Facing a prison sentence of more than 20 years, he confessed and turned Supergrass.
He was interviewed 15 times by officers from the National Criminal Investigation Squad, and gave them information about a £100m cocaine smuggling ring which led to the conviction of a dozen top criminals and the confiscation of millions of pounds of drugs money.
Officers established that Regan had supplied members of a big cocaine smuggling gang with passports. Investigators believe that between 1996 and 1998, this gang smuggled cocaine with an estimated street value of £2 billon into England.
Regan provided information to officers working on a five-year investigation, in which 15 people were convicted in a case which involved five separate trials.
Regan’s co-defendants pleaded not guilty, but thanks to him they received lengthy sentences.
The judge told Regan: “As a result of your cooperation you will never again be trusted by your former colleagues, so you can’t go back (to a life of crime) and the enmity of those people will make your future life precarious …those who turn against former associates should receive a very great reduction in their sentence.”
He was sentenced to eight years but was released just three years later, in 2002.
A former fellow prisoner, who does not want to be named, said: “He knew there were contracts on his life but he didn’t seem to care. His attitude was: ‘Come on then, let’s get it over with.’ There was no way he was going to live quiet. Believe me, when he goes, Regan will go out with a bang.”
Desperate to make money and aware that he was a ‘dead man walking,’ Regan muscled in on Ciba. He offered to buy the business for £3m, but he had no money.
Instead, after a meeting near Stonehenge on February 12, 2003, the three men kidnapped Mr Chohan and forced him to sign several sheets of blank paper, on which they later typed fake letters from him, handing over control of Ciba to Regan.
But for the plan to work, the rest of the family had to be killed too.
Richard Horwell, prosecuting, said: “The most chilling feature of this scheme is the fact that those involved in its planning must have realised that Amarjit Chohan’s disappearance may not have seemed credible if it appeared as though he had left his family behind.”
The case took a big leap forward on April 9, 2003, with a phone call from former publicist, Belinda Brewin, 41, on whose 50-acre Devon estate the bodies were first buried, without her knowledge, and then dug up and dumped at sea.
Regan claimed to be in love with Ms Brewin, who had been television presenter Paula Yates’ best friend, but she rebuffed his advances and denied there had ever been any romantic relationship.
Ms Brewin ‘went ballistic’ when she returned to her remote farm in Stoodleigh, Devon, earlier than planned on February 20 2003 and found Regan, Horncy and Rees digging a trench. She was shocked when Police moved in to dig up the field but Regan insisted he was innocent. It was the last time they spoke.
Regan’s house, a cottage in Forge Close, Wiltshire, was found to be spotless. It had been hurriedly redecorated and a forensic examination failed to find a single incriminating speck of dust.
On a garden wall, however, one drop of blood was conclusively proven to have come from Devinder. It was 4 feet above ground level and was described as a ‘downward drop’ by a forensic scientist, suggesting the toddler was being carried at the time. Traces of Amarjit Chohan’s blood were found on the speedboat used by the three men to dump the bodies. Regan and Horncy fled the country, while Rees hid near the Forest of Dean.
All of them were captured; Regan was cornered in a Belgian bar.
During the trial, Regan accused the Police of planting a letter to him in Chohan’s sock. The prosecution argued that Chohan had concealed it because he wanted to leave a clue before he died.
The bodies of Mr and Mrs Chohan and Mrs Kaur were recovered from the sea – in April, July and November 2003 respectively.
Postmortem reports revealed that Mr Chohan had been drugged and possibly strangled and his wife’s skull smashed with a hammer.
Mrs Kaur’s body was too badly decomposed to provide any conclusive information. The bodies of Ravinder and Devinder have never been found.
Amarjit and Nancy Chohan with Charanjit Kaur and their son Devinder.
Picture by Chris Smith for Unicorn Pictures. Courtesy: Daily Mail.