Sixteen years after Mukhtiar Panghali strangled his pregnant wife and burned her body, the Parole Board of Canada has released him on parole for six months to serve time at a community correctional center.
The board says a May review of Panghali’s correctional plan found he has shown greater accountability and attitude improvements, and has been downgraded from high to medium risk to require intervention.
Panghali, a former high school teacher in Surrey, BC, reported in October 2006 that his wife Manjit Panghali was missing. Police discovered her badly burned body five days later.
An investigation eventually found that Panghali strangled his wife in their home and then took her body to neighboring Delta, BC to try to cover up the crime.
He was arrested in 2007 and charged with first degree murder. In 2011, he was sentenced to life imprisonment with no chance of parole for 15 years.
Panghali has been in a minimum security prison since 2016. The probation commission said in its decision that he appears to have accepted responsibility for his actions and made noticeable efforts to change, despite initially pleading innocent and unsuccessfully appealing his sentence in 2012.
“Reports indicated that you expressed deep regret for your ‘regressive and rather archaic attitude and beliefs about marriage and intimate relationships,'” the board said in its statement, adding that Panghali has offered a number of courses on anger management, nonviolent communication and integration in the community in prison.
“[Correctional Services Canada] has reported that within an institutional setting there is little you can do to address your risk factors as you have exhausted the programming available,” they said.
The probation commission noted that Panghali had participated in 50 supervised temporary absences, as well as a few unaccompanied leave days to visit family, all “without any problems”.
According to the report granting his parole, Panghali respects his daughter’s wish not to have any contact. She is raised by Manjit Panghali’s sister.
Women’s lawyer ‘sick’ due to parole
Ninu Kang, executive director of the Ending Violence Association of British Columbia, says she has been told Panghali has been granted parole and is back to the time he killed his wife.
“Honestly, I’m sick of it,” she told CBC, adding that she remembers considering leaving her profession at the time.
“This particular crime, followed by a number of other South Asian women being murdered in the community… it was too much for me,” she said.
Kang says she immediately thought of the life of a young woman and her unborn child who was taken away, as well as the impact the “horrific” murder had on Manjit Panghali’s daughter, family and loved ones.
She is also concerned about the impact of the news on other women who have been victims of gender-based violence.
“Sometimes it feels like there’s no justice,” she said. “A woman can be murdered, and the person who killed her can come out within a few years of being behind bars and…live in relative freedom.”
Kang says she believes in educating men to understand that women are their equals, and teaching them how to “appear differently as men” in today’s society. She also hopes for better protection for victims.
“I think the justice system still needs to outperform in terms of policies and practices,” she said. “To make sure that victims are safe and that victims have their rights.
“And I think we need to do better … make sure that the behavior is curbed and that women and non-binary people are safer in our society.”
The conditions imposed on Panghali during his six-month probationary leave included not drinking alcohol or drugs, having no contact with the victim’s family, and reporting all relationships and attempts to engage in relationships with women to a conditional supervisor.
While the probation commission said it believes Panghali can successfully reintegrate into society, it said the “serious and violent nature” of his crime had not escaped their notice.
“Your actions were insensitive and cruel and significantly traumatized the victim’s family,” the report says, adding that these are still considered aggravating factors.
The board said the fact that Pangali has no previous criminal history was a mitigating factor in its decision.