Man found to have used hatchet to kill drug dealer appeals murder conviction


Undated photo of Ronak Manji Wagad. Handout photo/VANCOUVER DESI


Lawyers for a North Vancouver man convicted of using a hatchet to murder a Vancouver drug dealer were in court Tuesday to appeal the murder conviction.

In May 2012, Babak Najafi-Chaghabouri was found guilty of the February 2009 first-degree murder of Ronak “Ronny” Wagad, 31. Charles Anthony Leslie, his co-accused, was convicted of second-degree murder.

Suzette Narbonne, a lawyer for Najafi-Chaghabouri, told a three-member panel of the B.C. Court of Appeal that the trial judge, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Barry Davies, chose the correct legal test to assess the evidence of several key Crown witnesses, who were drug addicted and had credibility and reliability issues.

She argued, however, that Davies did not apply the test correctly, in particular in assessing evidence that her client had confessed to the murder.

Crown counsel David Butcher conceded that the witnesses had “very troubling” issues but argued that it was not unusual in such a murder case to have such witnesses testify for the prosecution.

And he said that Davies knew the “dangers” of such witnesses and despite their frailties he found that they were not attempting to deceive the court.

In his reasons for judgment, Davies found that the relationship between Leslie and Wagad had deteriorated in the days before the slaying.

He concluded that the accused and a third man, Travis Winterlik, all wanted drugs and money from Wagad, and Leslie wanted revenge on Wagad for previously robbing him and sleeping with his former girlfriend.

They made plans to abduct and rob Wagad, and kidnapped him from his Vancouver apartment.

After a struggle during which Leslie struck Wagad with the hatchet to subdue him, the victim was loaded into the trunk of a rented vehicle and eventually driven to a secluded location along the Fraser River near Chilliwack.

Wagad attempted to flee the vehicle at one point, but was captured and put back into the trunk. Najafi-Chaghabouri used the hatchet to struck Wagad on the back of the head five times, killing him, the judge concluded.

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