B.C. man who strangled pregnant wife granted unescorted temporary absences from jail

·3 min read
Surrey school teacher Manjit Panghali was killed in 2006 by her husband Mukhtiar Panghali. He has been granted temporary unescorted absences from jail after being sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 15 years. (CBC - image credit)
Surrey school teacher Manjit Panghali was killed in 2006 by her husband Mukhtiar Panghali. He has been granted temporary unescorted absences from jail after being sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 15 years. (CBC - image credit)

Fifteen years after strangling his pregnant wife and burning her body, a former B.C. secondary school teacher has been granted unescorted temporary absences from jail.

The Parole Board of Canada says Mukhtiar Panghali is still assessed as being at a high risk of violence against an intimate partner.

But in a decision released earlier this month, the board said the 49-year-old will benefit from time spent with his immediate family, away from prison, participating in everyday activities like shopping and banking.

"Although this is a positive decision and is reflective of the progress you have been making in your case, it is not made without weight being placed on the negative aspects of your case," the board members wrote.

"The board takes into great consideration that your offending was of the most violent nature, was an ultimate betrayal of trust, resulted in a death and ongoing victimization to the family members, and that it took you a long time to be fully accountable for your actions."

'Smart enough not to get caught'

In 2011, Panghali was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 15 years for the second-degree murder of Manjit Panghali.

Police discovered the badly burned body of the 30-year-old mother of three five days after Mukhtiar Panghali reported her missing on her way to a pre-natal yoga class.

The killer was arrested in March 2007 and it later emerged that he had strangled Manjit Panghali at their home and then transported her body to the beach, where he set her remains on fire.

According to the parole documents, Panghali initially pleaded not guilty and then later appealed his sentence. He tried to blame her for what happened, but the parole board said he has since taken some degree of responsibility.

"You admitted to a higher level of abuse toward the victim, you were angry regarding her treatment of your family, that bottling of your emotions led to rage and the intent to kill her, and that you burning her body was your attempt to conceal your actions and avoid detection," the parole board wrote.

"You believed you were smart enough not to get caught and blamed others."

Still a threat to intimate partners

Mukhtiar Panghali has made his way from maximum to minimum security during his time in jail. In 2016, he was bumped back up to medium security after celebrating his imminent move to minimum security by smoking marijuana.

He ultimately made it to minimum security in 2017,

Panghali has been banned from teaching for 25 years, but works within the institution where he's currently housed as a tutor helping offenders get a high school education.

(CBC)
(CBC)

The parole board rejected a similar request a year ago, because of the fear that he would re-offend.

A psychological assessment rated him as a low-risk to re-offend during unescorted absences, but said he still represents a threat to any romantic partner.

"The psychologist reported that if you were to commit another violent offence in the future it would likely be linked to not managing negative emotions within the context of an intimate relationship," the parole board said in its most recent decision.

According to the decision, Panghali's unescorted absences with his family will start at 24 hours and then gradually increase to three days. He's required to report to police and to community parole officers.

The parole board notes the "significant trauma and loss" Manjit Panghali's family expressed in their victim impact statements. They settled a civil suit against Panghali in 2014 for $300,000.

The couple had a daughter who is being raised by the victim's sister.

"You attempted to maintain contact with your teenage daughter; you report her 'request for space' which you have respected," the parole board wrote.

"She continues her contact with your family. You two last spoke in December 2019."

As part of the terms of his release, Panghali cannot consume drugs or alcohol and has to report any intimate relationships, as well as friendships, with females. He's also forbidden any direct or indirect contact with the victim's family.

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