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Man accused of killing his wife weeps as tape played in court

The second-degree murder trial of Mukhtiar Panghali shown here continues in B.C. Supreme Court.

Felicity Don / The Globe and Mail/Felicity Don / The Globe and Mail

A man on trial for the killing of his pregnant wife wiped away tears as court heard a recording in which police first told him she was dead.

Mukhtiar Panghali was charged with second-degree murder and interfering with a dead body after his wife's charred corpse was found on a Delta beach on Oct. 23, 2006. His B.C. Supreme Court trial began on Monday in New Westminster.

On Thursday, the court heard a number of recordings that detailed Mr. Panghali's contact with police after his wife, Manjit, disappeared.

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One of those recordings was made on Oct. 26, 2006, when officers went to Mr. Panghali's house to tell him the badly burned body had been identified as that of his wife.

In the recording, Mr. Panghali can be heard wailing as police deliver the news. His mother and father can also be heard sobbing.

As the tape was played for the court, Mr. Panghali reached for a tissue and repeatedly dabbed at his eyes. He looked down at the floor and appeared to shake his head as if to say "no" on a couple of occasions.

Mr. Panghali's trial is scheduled to run for four weeks. He is being tried before a judge alone and the trial is expected to hear from 25 witnesses.

Earlier this week, a forensic pathologist testified Ms. Panghali was dead before her body was burned.

The pathologist, who conducted an autopsy on Ms. Panghali's body, said injuries to her neck were consistent with strangulation. He said no soot was found in her airway, suggesting she wasn't alive when the fire was set.

Ms. Panghali's fetus was 16 to 20 weeks old at the time of death. The couple had a daughter in preschool when Ms. Panghali died.

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Ms. Panghali, an elementary school teacher, was 30.

In its opening statement Monday, the Crown said it would use cellphone records and circumstantial evidence to prove Mr. Panghali killed his wife.

On Thursday, the Crown introduced surveillance photos that it said showed Mr. Panghali at a gas station in the early hours of Oct. 19, 2006. That would be hours after Mr. Panghali said his wife had vanished. Crown lawyer Dennis Murray didn't specify what link the photos might have to Ms. Panghali's death.

In another recording played for the court, Mr. Panghali walks out of a voluntary police interview hours after the family held a tearful press conference to ask for tips in what was then a missing-person case.

During the interview, he was asked to repeat a statement he had already given to police. He said he didn't see the point and when he was told police were investigating whether Ms. Panghali's death was linked to other major cases, Mr. Panghali said he was "numb" and walked out.

During the interview, Mr. Panghali was directly asked if he killed his wife. He said no.

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