Richmond family suspects murder in India death of 20-year-old man

Parminder Jassal here with his wife Paramjit and daughter Emin (in wheelchair) holding a photograph of her brother, Kevin, who used to look after her. Mark van Manen/PNG

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI 

A Richmond family is pleading for answers more than five months after their only son mysteriously died in India on a family vacation.

The family left for Ludhiana, India on Feb. 25 and it was on March 14 that Parminder Jassal found his 20-year-old son Kevin’s lifeless body on the floor of a family member’s home.

He had spent hours that day searching for Kevin, who was supposed to be out for drinks and then off to the gym with a relative.

“When we found Kevin’s body, it had turned blue,” Jassal told Vancouver Desi.

Rumours began to circulate through the small Indian village that his son had died of a drug overdose. Jassal and his family cremated Kevin’s body and held a service in India before they returned to Canada March 22.

But it wasn’t until three-and-a-half weeks ago that Jassal received autopsy results listing the cause of death as aluminum phosphide insecticide poisoning.

According to Jassal, those results only point to a “well-planned murder.”

“We got suspicious only after we received the post-mortem report,” he said. “(Kevin) had never taken any drugs before. He had such a good life.”

Jassal points the finger at the family member with Kevin at the time of his death.

According to Jassal, the case revolves around Kevin refusing an arranged marriage and debts owed to the family — when Jassal asked the relatives to return money owed, they threatened him and Kevin, but the doting father never thought it was something to be taken seriously.

Jassal has since filed complaints and letters with the Chief Minister of Punjab, the Punjab Human Rights Commission, the Ludhiana Police Commissioner, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.

According to documents submitted by Jassal, the Punjab Human Rights Commission in Chandigarh has referred the “serious case” to police, requesting an investigation by a senior officer.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada told Vancouver Desi in an email that it’s aware of a Canadian citizen who “passed away” in India and that consular services have been provided.

“We want a hard criminal investigation — because in India they can easily bribe and get (away with it),” said Jassal.

In a number of letters sent to officials, Jassal explains he accepted the drug overdose rumours only because he was “totally confused” and “under very tremendous pressure, severe shock and unrest by losing my only sincere and loving son.”

But he believes the post-mortem report “throws a new light to this murder case.”

Photo of Kevin Jassal. PNG

“I will not let my son’s murderers be unpunished for the crime they have committed,” he said. “Our only hope in this world has been taken away from us.”

“We’ve been crying every day… we don’t even sleep.”

“I just can’t take it that he’s no longer in this world for me.”

Most grief-stricken is his 23-year-old daughter, Eminpreet — disabled and in a wheelchair, she was completely dependent on Kevin.

“My son was a pretty big asset to my daughter — if there was … no elevators he is the one who would bring her up and down (stairs),” said Jassal.

In years past, Eminpreet would celebrate Rakhi with Kevin — the Indian tradition honouring the relationship between brothers and sisters, when a sister ties a bracelet around her brother’s wrist, showing he stands with her against domestic abuse.

But on Wednesday, Eminpreet was forced to break that tradition and instead tie the band around a cousin’s wrist.

“It feels different … he won’t be here,” Eminpreet told Vancouver Desi, her voice coarse as she held back tears.

The Jassals are surrounded by smiling photos and memories of Kevin in their Richmond home — something they “can’t even dare to look at” any more, the now-broken family’s reality too painful to bear.

It all serves as a reminder of the promising young man Kevin will never grow up to be: He’ll never play basketball or soccer again, register for courses at UBC or BCIT, or graduate as an electrical engineer.

“Our home feels empty … dreams are shattered. I don’t know what I will do without my son,” said Jassal.

— with files from Almas Meherally

lcahute@theprovince.com
twitter.com/larissacahute

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