A man who was extradited from the United States to face a murder charge dating back to 1999 made a brief appearance in provincial court on Friday.
Ninderjit Singh – bearded, heavy-set and wearing a blue shirt – was ordered to make his next appearance by video on October 7.
Mr. Singh is charged with first degree murder in connection with the death of Poonam Randhawa in 1999. He is also facing a charge of attempted murder in a separate Vancouver case dating back to 1997.
He was returned to Vancouver pursuant to an extradition order following his arrest on August 19th in Riverside County, California.
Ms. Randhawa was found murdered in a lane near Granville Street and West 47th Avenue in Vancouver in January of 1999. The police suspicions quickly turned to Mr. Singh, whom police say had apparently been stalking the young woman for years.
A warrant was issued for his arrest, but police determined that within hours of the murder, Mr. Singh had boarded a plane in Seattle, Washington, bound for Los Angeles, California, where he had family connections on his mother's side.
By 2000, investigators believed Mr. Singh was living in an apartment in San Jose, California but he twigged to surveillance and fled before he could be arrested.
Investigators kept on the trail, convinced that Mr. Singh had assumed a false identity, changed his appearance and was working as a long haul truck driver.
This summer, VPD investigators became aware of a name that Ninderjit Singh had possibly assumed as his false identity. Working with U.S. authorities, they zeroed in on a home in Riverside County, California, about a two-hour drive east of Los Angeles.
Police located his workplace, but Mr. Singh had altered his appearance so much they needed to confirm his identify. A routine traffic stop of Mr. Singh's truck was arranged to obtain thumbprints, which matched fingerprints on file with VPD homicide investigators.
Mr. Singh was arrested and immediately confirmed his real identity, stating that he was aware he was wanted for murder in Canada.
According to the VPD, Mr. Singh had allegedly used a false identity to acquire a US Social Security number in New York in 2000. He lived in Northern California for a number of years before moving to Southern California. Using the false identity, he got married and obtained an out-of-state drivers licence. He has worked as a long-haul truck driver and had made weekly trips between Los Angeles and the Seattle, Washington area for the past few years.
He has a wife and two children in the U.S.; his wife has told investigators she did not know her husband's real identity or that he was wanted for murder.
Outside court, Ms. Randhawa's relatives told reporters that they were grateful to Vancouver police investigators for pursuing the case for so many years and relieved that Mr. Singh was found. Her parents are in India but have hoped for years that the case would be resolved.
"Finally we are relieved that he is here," said Avtar Singh Randhawa, a great-uncle. "Now he will be facing the justice system."