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Friend of man who killed B.C. student not guilty of manslaughter: Crown

Maple Batalia was an aspiring actress and model who moved with her family to Canada from India when she was six months old.

Photo courtesy of 2011 Central City Model Search Semi Finalists/2011 Central City Model Search Semi Finalists

A man accused of helping his friend after the latter shot and killed a former girlfriend took the vehicle used on the day of the attack through a car wash, the Crown says.

But while the Crown urged a B.C. Supreme Court judge to convict Gursimar Bedi of being an accessory after the fact to murder, prosecutors invited the judge to acquit on a charge of manslaughter with a firearm. The Crown said it now does not believe it can prove Mr. Bedi could have foreseen the bodily harm that occurred.

The defence argued that Mr. Bedi should not be convicted of any charge, telling the court that the only thing he's guilty of is "having poor taste in friends."

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Closing arguments in Mr. Bedi's case began Thursday. He is charged in the death of Maple Batalia, who was shot and killed as she left a study session at Simon Fraser University's Surrey campus in September, 2011.

Gary Dhaliwal, Ms. Batalia's former boyfriend, pleaded guilty earlier this month to second-degree murder, and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 21 years. Ms. Batalia, who had acting and modelling credits and dreamed of becoming a doctor, was 19 at the time of her death.

Ms. Batalia had dated Mr. Dhaliwal but ended their relationship when she learned he had been unfaithful.

He refused to leave her alone, calling her more than 2,000 times in the six weeks leading up to her death, and texting her a couple of thousand times more.

Mr. Dhaliwal claimed he went to the campus to confront a male friend of Ms. Batalia but became enraged when he saw the two hug. He shot her three times and she died in hospital.

Mr. Bedi's trial before a judge without a jury began last week.

Crown prosecutor Wendy Stephen told the court on Thursday that Mr. Bedi assisted Mr. Dhaliwal in several ways. For instance, she said, Mr. Bedi took the rental vehicle used on the day of the attack through a car wash. Ms. Stephen said surveillance footage shows the vehicle was not dirty at the time, and she suggested Mr. Bedi wanted to destroy any potential forensic evidence.

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The Crown alleged Mr. Bedi also told Mr. Dhaliwal that police were at Mr. Dhaliwal's home and suggested they discuss an alibi. Ms. Stephen also said Mr. Bedi passed on information he learned about the investigation from other people who had been contacted by police, such as the fact that 50 officers were working on the case.

On the manslaughter with a firearm count, the Crown said Mr. Bedi served as Mr. Dhaliwal's "eyes and ears" at the school. Ms. Stephen said Mr. Bedi entered the campus to see if Ms. Batalia's male friend was there, while Mr. Dhaliwal waited in the rental vehicle.

Mr. Bedi returned to the vehicle after seeing the man, and Ms. Stephen said the Crown believes Mr. Bedi was nearby when the shooting occurred.

But while Ms. Stephen said it can be inferred that Mr. Bedi would have known a confrontation was about to occur, the Crown does not have the evidence to prove he could have known there would be bodily harm. As a result, she invited the judge to acquit on that count.

Hovan Patey, Mr. Bedi's lawyer, told the court he agreed the manslaughter charge should not succeed. However, he said Mr. Bedi should also be acquitted of being an accessory after the fact to murder. There is no evidence Mr. Bedi was trying to help Mr. Dhaliwal, he said, and denied the vehicle was washed for nefarious purposes.

"At its height, the evidence will disclose a wish to avoid being held accountable for criminal actions that were entirely those of Mr. Dhaliwal," Mr. Patey said.

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"Mr. Bedi is undoubtedly guilty of having poor taste in friends, but that's not sufficient for criminal liability."

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