Shocking details from attempted murder trial of radio host Harnek Singh

The details emerging from the trial describe alleged attempt by a fellow Sikh to finish off the New Zealander Sikh who discussed various topics on Sikhi - the Sikh faith - deemed progressive by some but controversial or even offensive to other quarters within the wider Sikh community.

0
1928
Attempted murder trial of NZ radio host Harnek Singh (left). The accused, (from left-to-right): Jaspal Singh, Jobanpreet Singh, Jagraj Singh, Gurbinder Singh, Sukhpreet Singh (photos courtesy of New Zealand Herald)

By Asia Samachar | New Zealand |

The attempted murder trial of Radio Virsa host Harnek Singh, known to friends as “Nekki”, enters into its fourth week in Auckland, New Zealand.

The details emerging from the trial describe alleged attempt by a fellow Sikh to finish off the New Zealander Sikh who discussed various topics on Sikhi – the Sikh faith – deemed progressive by some but controversial or even offensive to other quarters within the wider Sikh community.

Harnek Singh suffered dozens of stab wounds but miraculously survived in the attack on the night of December 23, 2020. He was then 53-years-old. His red ute was rammed as he pulled into the driveway of his Wattle Downs, South Auckland home two days before Christmas.

The trial heard from one of the persons involved in the attack claiming that the alleged perpetrator had said this to him: “You’re one of the chosen ones.”

Prosecutors allege seven men in total committed attempted murder by either planning the December 2020 attack, directly participating in it or offering aid and encouragement – targeting the radio host because of his liberal Sikh ideology, which had garnered him hundreds of thousands of listeners but also plenty of fierce critics, reported the New Zealand Herald.

Three of the seven accused men have pleaded guilty: Former trucking company owner Jaspal Singh, who spent several days in the witness box earlier in the trial; Sarvjeet Sidhu and Hardeep Singh Sandhu, who sent the text.

The remaining defendants, all of whom have pleaded not guilty, include Jobanpreet Singh, who is accused of directly participating in the attack; Jagraj Singh and Gurbinder Singh, who allegedly followed the radio host in a Toyota Prius, offering encouragement or support to the attackers; a man with name suppression alleged to have orchestrated the attempted hit; and Sukhpreet Singh. An eighth man – Sukhpreet Singh, who allegedly welcomed two of the bloody attackers into his home to clean up after the incident – has been charged with being an accessory after the fact, according to the report.

SEE ALSO: The Cowardice of Religious Hooligans

SEE ALSO: Attack on Sikh talk radio host simply wrong

Harnek described himself as an operations manager by trade who began a small community FM radio programme in 2013 that had a reach of only several kilometres. But he realised several years in that people had begun recording audio clips of his programmes to share on social media. Today, the programme has just under 473,000 subscribers on YouTube, with the bulk of his audience overseas, mainly in the US, India, the UK and Canada.

Radio Virsa host Harnek Singh, known to friends as “Nekki”, considers himself lucky to have survived the dozens of stab wounds and nearly severed arm that resulted from the frenzied attack that night, after his ute was rammed by a van near the driveway of his Wattle Downs, South Auckland home.

The trial has been well-captured by the New Zealand’s Herald. The reports are written by Craig Kapitan, a senior multimedia journalist for the newspaper, who has extensive experience reporting on crime, navigating courtrooms, and supervising other crime and courts reporters.

Asia Samachar has picked up salient points from the reports. Click on the links to read the reports in full.

Harnek Singh, aged 53 years, of South Auckland was attacked and stabbed multiple times in his driveway in Wattle Downs 23 December 2021. Photo supplied / NZ Herald

Radio host attempted murder trial: Man accused of orchestrating hit on Harnek Singh gave two police interviews (Sept 27, 2023)

Just weeks after popular but controversial radio host Harnek Singh was ambushed and stabbed multiple times by a group of strangers in the driveway of his South Auckland home, the man accused of orchestrating the attempted murder arranged to have the radio host’s blood-soaked and battered ute – which had been written off by insurers – bought at auction.

During two police interviews, in January and November 2021, the defendant with name suppression made no secret of his dislike of the radio host.

“Tell me about Harnek Singh,” Detective Andrew Wright asked the suspect during the first interview, which occurred just one month after the December 23, 2020, attack on Harnek Singh that left him fighting for his life with dozens of stab wounds.

“He’s saying, he’s doing bullshit to all religion,” the man responded, suggesting that the radio host outraged not just fellow Sikhs like himself but people of all religious and political persuasions.

The man acknowledged he wouldn’t listen to Harnek Singh’s hours-long broadcasts, which he recorded several days a week from a Sihk temple in Papatoetoe. But the condensed clips of the broadcasts the suspect had found on social media were enough to convince him the radio host was saying “so many bad things”, he said.

“Everyone feels like he’s no good,” he told the detective.

Earlier in the trial, victim Harnek Singh described how his audience has grown substantially over the years far beyond the limited reach of his live radio broadcasts – including hundreds of thousands of people who subscribe to him on YouTube, where his broadcasts are shared with a mostly international audience. He acknowledged that he has also had some very passionate critics, most of whom espouse a more orthodox view of Sikhism than his own liberal views.

All five of the defendants in the current trial fall in the more orthodox camp, prosecutors have suggested.

Prosecutors allege seven men in total committed attempted murder by either planning the attack, directly participating in it or offering aid and encouragement. Three have pleaded guilty.

Those who have pleaded not guilty include Jobanpreet Singh, who is accused of directly participating in the attack; Jagraj Singh and Gurbinder Singh, who allegedly followed the radio host in a Toyota Prius, offering encouragement or support to the attackers; and the man with name suppression alleged to have organised the attempted hit and recruited the participants.

An eighth man – Sukhpreet Singh, who allegedly welcomed two of the bloody attackers into his home to clean up after the incident – has been charged with being an accessory after the fact and is also on trial.

The detective also told the suspect during the videotaped interview about another witness who had told police he had been approached by the defendant a week before the attack in an attempt to recruit him for the assassination attempt.

“You started talking to him about Harnek and he understood that you wanted to kill him,” the detective said, referring to witness Baljinder Singh. “You told him that you had a plan and that you were gonna use a stolen vehicle to follow Harnek home from his work or his temple.

“The stolen vehicle would run Harnek off the road, you would provide a motorbike and a handgun and one of the persons on the motorbike would pull up and shoot Harnek dead.”

The defendant strongly disagreed with the statement.

“Total 100, 101 per cent false,” he responded. “That’s totally lying.”

In addition to playing the police interview, the Crown called another witness this week who said the man with name suppression often advocated for violent retribution even if he didn’t mention Harnek Singh by name.

“He said, like, we can go to any extreme if someone is against Sikhism,” Gurpreet Singh recalled.

Gurpreet Singh said he was never approached about the attack itself, but after it happened the man with name suppression approached him and suggested he had been “chosen by God” to do something for their faith: dispose of a white Toyota Hiace van.

Authorities have alleged it was the same van that was used to ram the radio host’s ute in the lead-up to his attack.

Gurpreet Singh said he took the van to a mechanic’s shop in Huntly.

“We just cut it in pieces and threw it in different places,” he said, explaining that some of the parts went in rubbish bins while others were taken to a farm in Cambridge.

Radio Virsa host Harnek Singh

Radio host attempted murder trial: Interview played of Jagraj Singh, accused of aiding attack on Harnek Singh (Sept 25, 2023)

Two days before controversial international radio celebrity Harnek Singh was ambushed and stabbed repeatedly in the driveway of his South Auckland home, two men who would later be accused of being present during the near-fatal attack were discussing GPS tracking devices.

Jagraj Singh, one of four men currently on trial for attempted murder in the High Court at Auckland, was alleged to be one of them. The other was Hardeep Singh Sandhu, who is not on trial only because he pleaded guilty last month.

Craig Kapitan is a Senior Multimedia Journalist for New Zealand’s Herald, with extensive experience reporting on crime, navigating courtrooms, and supervising other crime and courts reporters.

Radio host attempted murder trial: Jaspal Singh testifies for third day about Harnek Singh attack (Sept 18, 2023)

A prison inmate who has admitted participating in the ambush and stabbing attack on controversial radio host Harnek Singh sat in the witness box again today as lawyers for his former co-defendants took turns attacking his credibility.

Jaspal Singh, 42, has been testifying in the High Court at Auckland since Thursday. The bulk of the first two days of testimony consisted of his unchallenged account of what happened during and leading up to the December 23, 2020, politically motivated murder attempt.

He told jurors he and others were recruited to attack the radio host by a defendant who has name suppression. But defence lawyer Dale Dufty, acting on behalf of the man with name suppression, suggested during cross-examination the witness was lying in a bid to get out of prison as soon as possible.

“My knife dropped. My DNA was there. I was done,” the witness said of his decision to plead guilty and cooperate with police.

The witness said during that meeting he was given the impression he would serve as a getaway driver for two men on a stolen motorbike who would pull up to the radio host’s vehicle and open fire. On the day of the attack, however, he said the plan changed significantly and he learned that he would he participating directly in the hit.

“Seems a bit silly, doesn’t it, that plan?” Dufty said of the motorbike shooting described by the witness.

“Ask your client [referring to the man with name suppression]. He made it up,” the witness responded dryly.

Radio host attempted murder trial: Prisoner Jaspal Singh testifies about attempt to kill Harnek Singh (Sept 14, 2023)

“You’re one of the chosen ones.”

Those were the words, business owner-turned-prison inmate Jaspal Singh told jurors today, that convinced him he had a role to play in the murder of South Auckland radio host Harnek Singh.

Prosecutor Luke Radich had the witness focus on one former co-defendant in particular – a man with name suppression who is accused of having planned and organised the murder attempt.

Jaspal Singh, 42, said he first learned of the plan about a week before the attack after he was called to the other man’s house early in the morning. They were sitting alone in the sunroom of the home when the other man began discussing the plan.

“He said he needed him [the radio host] gone,” Jaspal Singh testified. “He said he had all the arrangements sorted.”

“It was basically a hit on Harnek Singh,” the witness told jurors, explaining that the job was to take place just before Christmas that year.

“I was shocked at that time,” he said of his initial reaction. “He sits down, closes his eyes and says, ‘You’re one of the chosen ones’, and I believed him.

“I said, ‘Yes’.”

He said he met that evening with the man with name suppression and with Sarvjeet Sidhu, 27, who pleaded guilty to attempted murder just days before the current trial began. The man with name suppression handed over a black duffle bag, he said.

“He told us, ‘There’s stolen [number] plates in the bag. There’s knives, bats’,” the witness said. “[He said], ‘You’re the chosen ones. You’ve got to do the service’. And he patted us on the back.”

He was speechless, he said, explaining that he thought he was being recruited to do something for the greater good.

“He told us that Nekki [the radio host’s nickname] had to go, that he had to die,” Jaspal Singh said.

Radio host attempted murder trial: Harnek Singh testifies about attack that almost cost his life (Sept 11, 2023)

As a group of masked men approached Harnek Singh’s ute, which had been rammed just moments earlier as he tried to pull into the driveway of his South Auckland home, it dawned on the popular talkback radio host that he might not survive what was about to follow.

“It took a second for me to decide, ‘I’m gone’,” he told jurors today in the High Court at Auckland as he testified against four men accused of a politically motivated attempted murder and a fifth man accused of being an accessory after the fact.

“To be honest, when I saw that … I just accepted it.”

Radio host attempted murder trial: Witness says defendant tried to recruit him to kill Harnek Singh (Sept 7, 2023)

In 2015, as controversial Auckland radio host Harnek Singh was set to debate a visiting American Sikhism scholar at a local temple, young bodybuilder Avtar Singh went to Bunnings Warehouse and bought an axe.

“I’m not proud of that moment,” the now 30-year-old testified today, explaining that he had been “brainwashed” by an older, charismatic man who had taken him under his wing and convinced him the radio host needed to be “shut down”.

“To tell you the truth, [that axe] was either to hurt Harnek or someone who was around him at that time,” he sheepishly acknowledged to jurors in the High Court at Auckland, explaining that the immature, half-baked plan was quickly thwarted after a friend noticed the weapon in his pants and told him to leave it in the car.

About five years later, on a night in December 2020, the radio host became the victim of a more successful attack by a group of strangers who rammed his ute near his Wattle Downs home and stabbed him dozens of times – fracturing his skull and nearly causing him to bleed to death.

Prosecutors allege the attack was orchestrated by a man with name suppression currently on trial for attempted murder – the same man whom Avtar Singh cited as inspiration for his flirtation with political violence.

Radio host attempted murder trial: Four accused of trying to kill Harnek Singh in Wattle Downs driveway (Sept 6, 2023)

“You will hear about the injuries in greater detail during this trial but, put simply, they were horrific,” Crown prosecutor Luke Radich told jurors today during his opening address. “Having inflicted these injuries, his attackers quite literally left him for dead.

“But he wasn’t dead.”

Defence lawyer Dale Dufty, representing the man with name suppression, acknowledged that his client might have been “a little bit happy about what happened to Harnek Singh”. But he was far from alone in that sentiment and he certainly didn’t organise or order the radio host’s death, Dufty said during a brief opening statement.

“Harnek Singh was an agitator, professional provocateur,” Dufty said as he gave jurors an abbreviated lesson about the India-based Sikh religion and its diaspora in New Zealand. “We sometimes call that clickbait.”

Hardeep Sandhu, Sarvjeet Sidhu plead guilty to attempted murder of radio host Harnek Singh in Wattle Downs (Aug 30, 2023)

Two men have pleaded guilty to participating in the near-fatal attack on a well-known radio host who suffered multiple stab wounds after his ute was rammed in the driveway of his South Auckland home.

Harnek Singh – a DJ at Radio Virsa, which discusses religious and cultural issues in the Auckland Sikh community – was stabbed in his Wattle Downs driveway on the night of December 23, 2020, after a group of alleged attackers followed him home from temple.

Authorities previously described the attack as having been sparked by religious sectarian fervour.

Co-defendants Hardeep Singh Sandhu, 30, and Sarvjeet Sidhu, 27, took turns standing in the dock in the High Court at Auckland this morning as Justice Mathew Downs entered their convictions.

Sandhu was immediately taken into custody while Sidhu was allowed to remain on bail until 9am Monday, when a jury trial is slated to begin for five remaining co-defendants. Justice Downs set a sentencing date for both men for November, although the date may instead serve as a disputed facts hearing if an agreement isn’t reached beforehand.

Another co-defendant, Jaspal Singh, 42, pleaded last year to attempted murder and was sentenced to five years and three months’ prison.

RELATED STORY:

NZ Sikh radio host stabbed in suspected religiously motivated attack (Asia Samachar, 26 Dec 202)

ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs / Punjabis in Southeast Asia and beyond. When you leave a comment at the bottom of this article, it takes time to appear as it is moderated by human being. Unless it is offensive or libelous, it should appear. You can also comment at FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can reach us via WhatsApp +6017-335-1399 or email: asia.samachar@gmail.com. For obituary announcements, click here

NO COMMENTS