VANCOUVER – The LINK has been following the case of bright young student Poonam Randhawa who was murdered in Vancouver in 1999. We have done a number of follow-ups on her story after her alleged killer Ninderjit Singh, aka Ninderjit Singh Soos, disappeared following her brutal shooting death on Jan. 26, 1999.
After 12 long years, the law finally caught up with the killer and Singh was arrested this week in California where he was living as a 300 pound bearded Sikh trucker with wife and two kids.
Singh is accused of shooting Poonam Randhawa, a popular 18-year-old student in 1999 after allegedly stalking the victim, who by some accounts was his former girlfriend or a girl he knew. Randhawa was on her lunch break when she was killed by a single shot to the head.
After a search that lasted for more than a decade, Singh was arrested Friday in Riverside County, California. He faces a charge of first-degree murder in Randhawa’s death.
“I can’t remember when any announcement has ever given me more pleasure,” Vancouver Police Deputy Chief Warren Lemcke told reporters.
“Police always suspected the killer was Ninderjit Singh, a man she knew who had apparently been stalking her for years.”
Investigators believe that Randhawa got into a car with Singh and then he allegedly drove her to a quiet street where her shot her and left her body.
Court documents allege that Randhawa got into the backseat of a car driven by a man named Paul Aulakh outside Sir Winston Churchill Secondary on the west side of Vancouver. Singh was sitting in the front seat of the car. She was killed shortly thereafter.
A warrant for Singh’s arrest was issued three days later, apparently after Aulakh called police on the advice of a friend. He had stowed his bloody car in a garage on East 61st Avenue. Vancouver police declined to speak with ctvbc.ca about Aulakh’s alleged role in the murder. But police have said that they are looking at all the evidence and new charges could be laid against those who allegedly helped Singh escape.
A warrant was issued for his arrest just three days after the killing, but Singh had already flown to Los Angeles, where he has family.
In 2000, investigators staked out a San Jose apartment where he was believed to be living, but he apparently became aware of police presence and fled.
Since 2001, Vancouver police have offered a $10,000 reward for Singh’s arrest. The search for the wanted man was outlined on the TV show America’s Most Wanted in 1999, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security joined the hunt in 2008.
Police say they learned of the alias Singh was using just a few weeks ago. He was allegedly using a false social security number and working as a truck driver in Irvine, California.
But his appearance had changed so much it was hard to confirm that he was the same person who has been on the lam since 1999. The once-slender Singh had ballooned to 300 lbs., grown a beard and started wearing a turban.
“Today, he looks nothing like the 1998 photo seen in local media reports,” Insp. Brad Desmarais said.
On Friday, a California Highway Patrol officer pulled over Singh’s truck, issued a ticket, and took his fingerprints to verify his identity. He was arrested at his home later the same day and taken to jail in Los Angeles to await extradition.
In the time since he disappeared from Vancouver, Singh was married and now has two young children. His wife told police that she did not know his real name or that he was wanted for murder.
Desmarais says police believe that Singh’s family in the U.S. and Canada has been helping him evade capture.
He estimates that the hunt for Singh has cost the Vancouver Police Department more than $500,000, but would not reveal the investigative techniques used to find the wanted man.
Singh’s capture concludes one of the longest manhunts in the force’s history, he noted.