Air India Flight 182

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Air-India Flight 182 was en-route to New Dehli, India and Bombay, India via London Heathrow, as it entered airspace over the Atlantic Ocean on the South coast of Ireland on June 23, 1985, the Boeing 747 was destroyed while at an altitude of 31,000 feet (9500 m). All 329 people on board were killed, which included 280 Canadian citizens.[1] and 136 children.

Until September 11, 2001, the Air India bombing was the single deadliest terrorist attack involving aircraft. It also remains to this day the largest mass murder in Canadian history. The incident occurred within an hour of the Narita Airport Bombing.

The trial of those accused of the bombing, Sikh separatists Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, became known as the "Air India Trial". The investigation and prosecution took almost 20 years, and was the most expensive trial in Canadian history costing nearly CAD $130 million. The co-accused were found not guilty and released.

The only person convicted of involvement in the bombing is Inderjit Singh Reyat, who pleaded guilty in 2003 to manslaughter in constructing the bomb used on Flight 182 and received a five-year sentence. He was refused parole in July 2007.

In September 2007, the commission investigated reports, initially disclosed in the Indian investigative news magazine Tehelka[2]that an hitherto unnamed person, Lakhbir Singh Brar Rode, had masterminded the explosions. This report appears to be inconsistent with other evidence available with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP)[3].

Pre-Incident timeline

The Air India Boeing 747-237B "Emperor Kanishka" (registered VT-EFO) flew on a Montréal-Mirabel International Airport – London Heathrow Airport – Palam International Airport, Delhi – Sahar International Airport, Bombay route.

On June 20, 1985, at 0100 GMT, a man calling himself Mr Singh made reservations for two flights on June 22: one for "Jaswand Singh" to fly from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Montreal on Canadian Pacific Air Lines (CP) 086, and one for "Mohinderbel Singh" to fly from Vancouver to Tokyo on CP 003, there to connect with Air India flight 301 to Bangkok.

At 0220 GMT on the same day, another call was made, changing the reservation in the name of "Jaswand Singh" from CP 086 to CP 060 (flying from Vancouver to Toronto, Ontario). The caller also asked to be wait-listed on Air India 181 from Toronto to Montreal and AI 182 from Montreal to Delhi.

At 1910 GMT, a man paid for the two tickets with $3,005 in cash at a CP ticket office in Vancouver. The names on the reservations were changed: "Jaswand Singh" became "M Singh" and "Mohinderbel Singh" became "L Singh".

On June 22, 1985, at 1330 GMT, a man calling himself Manjit Singh called to confirm his reservations on Air India flight 181/182. He was told he was still wait-listed, and was offered alternate arrangements, which he declined.

The Day Of The Bombing

Air-India Flight 182 departed from Montreal for London, en route to Delhi and Bombay. 329 people were on board; 307 passengers and 22 crew. At 07:14:01 GMT The Boeing 747-237B, squawked 2005, disappeared, and the aircraft started to disintegrate in mid-air. No 'May day' call was received by Shannon, ATC. They asked aircraft in the area to try to contact Air India, but to no avail. By 07:30:00 GMT hrs an emergency status was enacted, many cargo ships and the Irish navy vessel LÉ Aisling were asked to look out for the aircraft. By 09:13:00hrs GMT the cargo ship Laurentian Forest had discovered the wreckage of the aircraft and many bodies floating in the waters. Meanwhile at Japan’s Narita Airport, there was an explosion in a suitcase and two baggage handlers were killed while 4 others were injured. The bomb was on a suitcase on its way from a Canadian airliner onto an Air India flight.

The Air India 182 bomb

At 15:50 GMT on June 22, Singh checked in at Vancouver International Airport for CP Air Flight 60 to Toronto and was assigned seat 10B. He asked that his suitcase, a dark brown, hard-sided Samsonite suitcase, be transferred to Flight 181 and then 182. CP Agent Jeanne Bakermans initially refused his request to inter-line the baggage, since his seat from Toronto to Montreal and Montreal to Delhi was unconfirmed, but later relented [4].

At 16:18 GMT, the CP Air flight to Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto departed without Mr Singh.

At 20:22 GMT, CP Air Flight 60 arrived in Toronto twelve minutes late. Some of the passengers and baggage, including the bag Mr Singh had checked in, were transferred to Air India flight 181. Other passengers and baggage from Air Canada Flight 136, which also came from Vancouver, were handled as well.

At 00:15 GMT (now June 23), Flight 181 departed Toronto for Montreal-Mirabel 1 hour and 40 minutes late. The aircraft was late because a "fifth pod", a spare engine, was installed below the left wing to be flown to India for repairs. The plane arrived at Mirabel at 01:00 GMT. In Montreal, the Air India flight became Flight 182.

At 07:15 GMT, Air India Flight 182, which had departed Mirabel bound for London, disappeared. Air traffic controllers at the Shanwick Oceanic Control Center near Shannon International Airport, in Shannon, Ireland heard a crackling sound on the radio before the plane vanished. The plane was due to arrive at 08:15 GMT. A Commemorative plaque, presented to the citizens of Bantry, Ireland by the Canadian Government for their kindness and compassion to the victims of Air India Flight 182. A Commemorative plaque, presented to the citizens of Bantry, Ireland by the Canadian Government for their kindness and compassion to the victims of Air India Flight 182.

A bomb in the forward cargo hold had exploded while the plane was in mid-flight at 31,000 feet at [show location on an interactive map] 51°3.6′N 12°49′WCoordinates: [show location on an interactive map] 51°3.6′N 12°49′W[5]. The bomb caused rapid decompression and consequent in-flight breakup. The wreckage settled in 6,700 feet (2,000 m) deep water off the south-west Irish coast 120 miles (190 km) offshore of County Cork.

If the one hour and forty minute delay in leaving Toronto did not happen, Air India 182 would have been at London's Heathrow airport at the time of the explosion, with an outcome similar to that of the Narita bomb which had exploded fifty five minutes earlier.

Recovery of bodies

The bomb on Flight 182 killed all 22 crew and 307 passengers, including 82 minors and numerous Sikhs. Post-accident medical reports graphically illustrated the outcomes of the passengers and crew. Of the 329 persons on board, 131 bodies were recovered; 198 bodies were lost forever to the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. The bodies recovered included 30 children. Eight bodies exhibited "flail pattern" injuries, indicating that they exited the aircraft before it had hit the water. This, in turn, was a sign that the airplane had broken up in mid-air. Twenty-six bodies, including twelve children, showed signs of hypoxia (lack of oxygen). Twenty-five bodies, mostly victims who were seated near windows, showed signs of explosive decompression. This included seven children. Twenty-three bodies had signs of "injuries from a vertical force". Twenty-one passengers were found with little or no clothing.

One official quoted in the report stated, "All victims have been stated in the PM reports to have died of multiple injuries. Two of the dead, one infant and one child, are reported to have died of asphyxia. There is no doubt about the asphyxial death of the infant. In the case of the other child (Body No 93) there was some doubt because the findings could also be caused due to the child undergoing tumbling or spinning with the anchor point at the ankles. Three other victims undoubtedly died of drowning." [6]

The vessel Guardline Locator from the UK, with sophisticated sonar equipment aboard, and the French cable laying vessel the Leon Thevenin, with its robot mini-sub Scarab, were dispatched to locate the flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder (CVR) boxes.The boxes would be difficult to find and it was imperative the search was commenced quickly. By 4 July, the Gardline Locator, equipment had detected signals on the sea bed and on 9 July the CVR was pin-pointed and raised to the surface by the Scarab. The next day the FDR was located and recovered.

The suspects

The main suspects in the bombing were the members of a Sikh separatist group called the Babbar Khalsa (banned in Europe and the United States as a proscribed Terrorist group) and other related groups who were at the time agitating for a separate Sikh state called Khalistan in Punjab, India.

  • Talwinder Singh Parmar, a naturalized Canadian citizen living in British Columbia was a high ranking official in the Babbar Khalsa, and his phone was being tapped by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) since three months before the bombing.[7] He was killed by the Punjab police in 1992.
  • Inderjit Singh Reyat was living in Duncan on Vancouver Island and working as an auto mechanic and electrician.
  • Ripudaman Singh Malik was a Vancouver businessman who helped fund a credit union and several Khalsa Schools.Recently he was proven not guilty of any involvement in the bombings.
  • Ajaib Singh Bagri was a mill worker living in Kamloops. He, along with Ripudaman Singh Malik was proven not guilty in 2007.
  • Surjan Singh Gill was living in Vancouver as the self-proclaimed consul-general of Khalistan. He later fled Canada and is believed to be in hiding in London, England.
  • Hardial Singh Johal and Manmohan Singh were both followers of Parmar and active in the Sikh temples where he preached. On November 15, 2002 Johal, died of natural causes at 55. He had allegedly stored the suitcases with bombs in the basement of a Vancouver school but was never charged in the case.
  • Daljit Sandhu is later named by a Crown witness as the man who picked up the tickets for the bombing. During the trial the Crown played a video from January, 1989, in which Sandhu congratulated the families of Indira Gandhi's assassins and stated that "she deserved that and she invited that and that's why she got it". Sandhu was cleared by Judge Josephson in his March 16 judgment.
  • Lakhbir Singh Brar Rode, the leader of the Sikh separatist organization International Sikh Youth Federation. An alleged confession by Parmar names him as the mastermind [8], but the details do not appear to tally with other available evidence[3].

On November 6, 1985 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) raided the homes of the suspected Sikh separatists, Talwinder Singh Parmar, Inderjit Singh Reyat. Surjan Singh Gill, Hardial Singh Johal, and Manmohan Singh.

Investigations

In the subsequent world-wide investigations over six years, many threads of the plot were uncovered:

  • The bombing was the joint project of at least two Sikh terrorist groups with extensive membership in Canada, USA, England and India. Their anger had been sparked by an attack on the Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh shrine in Amritsar in June 1984.[9]
  • Two men, identified by their tickets as M. Singh and L. Singh, checked in their bag bombs at Vancouver International Airport a few hours apart on June 22, 1985. Both men failed to board their flights.
  • The bag checked in by M. Singh exploded aboard Air India Flight 182.
  • The second bag, checked in by L. Singh, went on CP Air Flight 003 from Vancouver to Tokyo. Its target was an Air India Flight due to leave soon with 270 passengers, but it exploded in the terminal itself, killing two baggage handlers and injuring four.
  • The identities of these two men remain unknown.
  • A key player known to police variously as The "Third Man" or the "Unknown Male" had been seen by CSIS agents who were following Talwinder Singh Parmar on June 4, 1985. Described as a "youthful man"[9], he went with Parmar on a ferry ride from Vancouver to Duncan on Vancouver Island where he and Parmar participated in a test explosion of a device manufactured by Inderjit Singh Reyat. The third man has also been linked to travels done under tickets bought under the name "L. Singh" or "Lal Singh".[10]

The Air India Trial

Reyat's Narita conviction

On May 10, 1991, after lengthy proceedings to extradite Reyat from England, he was convicted of two counts of manslaughter and four explosives charges relating to the Narita Airport bombing. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.

Malik and Bagri charged

Fifteen years after the bombing, on October 27, 2000, RCMP arrested Malik and Bagri. They are charged with 329 counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of the people on board Air India Flight 182, conspiracy to commit murder, the attempted murder of passengers and crew on the Canadian Pacific flight at Japan's New Tokyo International Airport (now Narita International Airport), and two counts of murder of the baggage handlers at New Tokyo International Airport.

Reyat turns witness

On June 6, 2001, RCMP arrest Reyat to face charges of murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy in the Air India bombing. On February 10, 2003, Reyat pleads guilty to one count of manslaughter and a charge of aiding in the construction of a bomb. He was sentenced to five years in jail. He was expected to provide testimony in the trial of Malik and Bagri, but prosecutors were vague.

The trial proceeds between April 2003 to December 2004 in Courtroom 20[11], more commonly-known as "the Air India courtroom". At a cost of $7.2 million, the high-security courtroom was specially-built for the trial in the Vancouver Law Courts.

Verdict

On March 16, 2005, Justice Ian Josephson found Malik and Bagri not guilty on all counts, since the evidence was inadequate:

I began by describing the horrific nature of these cruel acts of terrorism, acts which cry out for justice. Justice is not achieved, however, if persons are convicted on anything less than the requisite standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Despite what appears to have been the best and most earnest of efforts by the police and the Crown, the evidence has fallen markedly short of that standard.[12]

Reaction

In a letter to the Attorney General of British Columbia, Malik has demanded compensation from the Canadian government for wrongful prosecution in his arrest and trial. Malik owes the government $6.4 million and Bagri owes $9.7 million in legal fees.[citation needed]

Reyat's perjury trial

In February, Inderjit Singh Reyat was charged with perjury with regard to his testimony in the trial. The indictment was filed in the Supreme Court of British Columbia and lists 27 instances where he allegedly misled the court during his testimony. Reyat had pled guilty to constructing the bomb but denied under oath that he knew anything about the conspiracy.

In the verdict, Justice Ian Josephson said: "I find him to be an unmitigated liar under oath. Even the most sympathetic of listeners could only conclude, as do I, that his evidence was patently and pathetically fabricated in an attempt to minimize his involvement in his crime to an extreme degree, while refusing to reveal relevant information he clearly possesses."

On July 3, 2007, with perjury proceedings still pending, Reyat was denied parole by the National Parole Board who concluded he was a continued risk to the public. The decision means Reyat will have to serve his full five-year sentence, which ends February 9, 2008.[13]

Alleged confession by Parmar in 1992

In July 2007, the Indian investigative weekly, Tehelka, reported that fresh evidence had emerged from a confession by militant Talwinder Singh Parmar to the Punjab police days before his encounter shooting death on October 15, 1992[2]. According to this article, this evidence had been collected by the Punjab Human Rights Organisation (PHRO), a Chandigarh-based group that had been conducting interviews of Parmar's associates for over seven years.

Subsequently, a translation of the confession was presented to the Inquiry Commission on September 24. The confession which had been billed as "seismic evidence", had elements that had already been investigated by RCMP, and some details were found to be false[3].

The confession had identified the mysterious Third Man or "Mr. X" as Lakhbir Singh Brar Rode, noted Sikh militant and nephew of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Insp. Lorne Schwartz said that the RCMP had interviewed Lakhbir in Pakistan in 2001. At the time, he had pointed to several others as having a hand in the bombing. Also, it was unlikely that Lakhbir was Mr. X, Schwartz claimed, because Mr. X appeared considerably younger[8].

Also, the RCMP had known about the purported confession for several years. They believed, despite official denials, that Parmar had been captured alive, interrogated and only then killed.

The new evidence was presented by officials of the PHRO, which had carried out a seven year investigation. The retired Punjab Police DSP Harmail Singh Chandi, who had personally been involved in the confession, did not testify. Chandi had travelled to Canada in June to present the evidence to the Inquiry Commission, but had not testified since he could not obtain a guarantee of anonymity[8]. The story was leaked in Tehelka after their return to India.

The 'Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 18' expressed the view in their dossier that "Talwinder Singh Parmar was the leader of the Babbar Khalsa, a pro-Khalistan organization at the heart of radical extremism, and it is now believed that he was the leader of the conspiracy to bomb Air India flights"[14]

Plot details

The purported confession presented the following story:

"Around May 1985, a functionary of the International Sikh Youth Federation came to me (Parmar) and introduced himself as Lakhbir Singh and asked me for help in conducting some violent activities to express the resentment of the Sikhs. I told him to come after a few days so that I could arrange for dynamite and battery etc. He told me that he would first like to see a trial of the blast...After about four days, Lakhbir Singh and another youth, Inderjit Singh Reyat, both came to me. We went into the jungle (of British Columbia). There we joined a dynamite stick with a battery and triggered off a blast. ...

Then Lakhbir Singh, Inderjit Singh and their accomplice, Manjit Singh, made a plan to plant bombs in an Air India (plane) leaving from Toronto via London for Delhi and another flight that was to leave Tokyo for Bangkok. Lakhbir Singh got the seat booking done from Vancouver to Tokyo and then onwards to Bangkok, while Manjit Singh got it done from Vancouver to Toronto and then from Toronto to Delhi. Inderjit prepared the bags for the flights, which were loaded with dynamite bombs fitted with a battery and transistor." - from the confession by Talwinder Singh Parmar[2]

Lakhbir Singh Brar Rode, who is the head of the banned International Sikh Youth Federation, has an Interpol Red corner warrant A-23/1-1997 against him[2]. In 1998, he was arrested for carrying 20 kg of RDX explosive near Kathmandu, Nepal[15]. The PHRO has stated that at the time of Flight 182, Rode was an undercover Indian Agent and that Parmar was murdered in order to protect his identity and India's role in the bombing[2]. Many details of this story do not seem to be consistent with other evidence available with the investigating team. [3]

'A Canadian tragedy'

Monument and playground in Stanley Park, Vancouver, commemorating victims of Flight 182, dedicated July, 2007. Monument and playground in Stanley Park, Vancouver, commemorating victims of Flight 182, dedicated July, 2007.

Twenty years after the downing of Air India Flight 182, families gathered in Ahakista, Ireland, to grieve. Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, on the advice of Prime Minister Paul Martin declared the anniversary a national day of mourning. During the anniversary observances, Martin said that the bombing was a Canadian problem, not a foreign problem, saying: "Make no mistake: The flight may have been Air India's, it may have taken place off the coast of Ireland, but this is a Canadian tragedy."[16]

In May 2007, pollster Angus Reid released the results of public opinion polling of whether Canadians viewed the bombing as a Canadian or Indian tragedy and who they blamed for it. Forty-eight per cent of respondents regarded the Air India bombing as a Canadian tragedy, while 22 per cent of Canadians thought of the terrorist attack as a mostly Indian affair. Thirty-four per cent of respondents thought both the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and airport security personnel deserved a great deal of the blame for the 1985 Air India bombing. In addition, 27 per cent of respondents believed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) were largely to blame, while 18 per cent mentioned Transport Canada. [17]

Bob Rae

Former Premier of Ontario Bob Rae was selected by Prime Minister Martin to determine if a Royal Commission is needed and was asked to determine whether or not the response by Canadian agencies was sufficiently co-ordinated, and if not, to find out if those problems had been fixed.

On November 23, 2005, Rae recommended further inquiry into the investigation and prosecution. In testimony before the Commission of Inquiry led by Justice John C. Major, former Ontario Lieutenant-Governor, James K. Bartleman indicated that in his prior position as the former head of intelligence for Foreign Affairs Canada he had received information about a specific threat to Air India days before Flight 182 blew up in 1985.[18] Rae's report didn't mention Bartleman's revelation. Rae said, "I didn't talk to Mr. Bartleman and he didn't talk to me. But I certainly was aware of the fact there were threat assessments that were being done on a regular basis...".[19]

John C. Major

Following up on election commitments for a full public inquiry, on May 1, 2006, new Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed judge John C. Major to lead the Commission of Inquiry into the Investigation of the Bombing of Air India Flight 182. Testimony from witnesses begins in September 2006.

May 9, 2007 – Former Quebec provincial police officer Serge Carignan testified that Air India bombing could have been prevented if he had the opportunity to search the flight's baggage[20]

June 20, 2007 - Major adjourned proceedings as two mystery witnesses billed as having "seismic" evidence for the Air India inquiry backed out at the last minute, fearing for their safety. A third surprise witness was unable to appear because of a heart attack.[21]

Key timelines

The bombing of Air India Flight 182 and the Narita airport launched several investigations, inquiries and trials. The trial of Malik and Bagri is known as the Air India Trial; events relating to the incident are listed below in chronological order.

  • July, 1985 – Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney calls Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to offer his condolences, but does not call the victims' families to do the same. This causes an uproar among Indo-Canadians who feel that although this is the deadliest terrorist act to date, it is not taken seriously because the victims although mostly Canadian were not Caucasian.[22] [23]
  • November 8, 1985 – The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) charge Talwinder Singh Parmar and Inderjit Singh Reyat with weapons, explosives and conspiracy offenses after a raid on their homes. Reyat is convicted of the weapons offence and receives a fine of $2,000. Because of a lack of evidence, the charges against Parmar are dropped and no link to Air India is established.
  • January 22, 1986 – The Canadian Aviation Safety Board determines that a bomb was responsible for bringing down Air India 182.
  • February 4, 1986 – The Indian Government's Kirpal Commission of Inquiry reaches the same conclusion as the Canadian Aviation Safety Board.
  • February 1988 – Inderjit Singh Reyat is arrested by British police in Coventry, England.
  • December 8, 1989 – Following a lengthy court battle the British government agrees to extradite Reyat to Canada.
  • May 10, 1991 – Inderjit Singh Reyat receives a ten year sentence after being convicted of two counts of manslaughter and four explosives charges relating to the Narita Airport bombing.
  • October 9 to 15, 1992 – Talwinder Singh Parmar interrogated by Punjab Police; apparently names Lakhbir Singh Brar Rode as mastermind, and confesses to supplying the dynamite for the operation. The confession is destroyed, since Lakhbir is said to have been an Indian agent.
  • October 15, 1992 – Talwinder Singh Parmar is reportedly killed by Indian Police during a gun battle in village Kang Arian in Punjab.
  • October 27, 2000 – Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri are arrested by the RCMP. They are charged with 329 counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of the people on board Air India Flight 182, conspiracy to commit murder, the attempted murder of passengers and crew on the Canadian Pacific flight at Japan's New Tokyo International Airport (now Narita International Airport), and two counts of murder of the baggage handlers at New Tokyo International Airport.
  • June 4, 2001 – The British government gives Canada permission to charge Inderjit Singh Reyat in connection with the bombings.
  • June 6, 2001 – Inderjit Singh Reyat is arrested by the RCMP facing charges of murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy in the Air India bombing.
  • February 10, 2003 – Reyat pleads guilty to one count of manslaughter and a charge of aiding in the construction of a bomb. He was sentenced to five years in jail. At the time he was expected to provide testimony in the trial of Malik and Bagri but later claimed he couldn't remember.
  • April 2003 – The trial of Malik and Bagri begins after being delayed by pre-trial motions and problems with defence counsel.
  • May 18, 2004 – The Crown rests its case in the trial of Malik and Bagri after calling 80 witnesses.
  • May 31, 2004 – Malik and Bagri's defence begins.
  • October 19, 2004 – Closing arguments begin.
  • December 4, 2004 – The judge presiding over the Air India Trial, Justice Ian Josephson, says the verdict will be delivered on March 16, 2005.
  • March 16, 2005 – Justice Ian Josephson delivers the verdict for Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri: Not guilty on all counts.

I began by describing the horrific nature of these cruel acts of terrorism, acts which cry out for justice. Justice is not achieved, however, if persons are convicted on anything less than the requisite standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Despite what appear to have been the best and most earnest of efforts by the police and the Crown, the evidence has fallen markedly short of that standard.[24]

  • January 6, 2006 – Inderjit Singh Reyat, the only man convicted in the 1985 Air India bombing, was due to receive a parole hearing in March. Instead Reyat was charged with perjury on his testimony on the Air India Trial. He was denied parole and brought back to British Columbia to face the new charges. He has indicated he will plead not guilty.[25]
  • 2007-07-26 The investigative magazine, Tehelka, releases reports that retired police officer has maintained records of Parmar's confession identifying the mastermind as Lakhbir Singh Brar Rode. Most of the confession is already known to RCMP, and the new aspects appear dubious.
  • 14 April 2008 National Geographic Channel in the UK are scheduled to broadcast an Air Crash Investigation episode (Explosive Evidence) about Air India Flight 182.

What did the Canadian government know?

The Canadian government had been warned by the Indian government about the possibility of terrorist bombs aboard Air India flights in Canada. And over two weeks before the crash CSIS reported to the RCMP that the potential threat to Air India as well as Indian missions in Canada, was high.[26]

Destroyed evidence

In his verdict Justice Josephson cited "unacceptable negligence" by CSIS when hundreds of wiretaps of the suspects were destroyed. Of the 210 wiretaps that were recorded during the months before and after the bombing, 156 were erased. These tapes continued to be erased even after the terrorists had become the primary suspects in the bombing.

CSIS claims the wiretaps contained no relevant information but a memo from the RCMP states that "There is a strong likelihood that had CSIS retained the tapes between March and August 1985, that a successful prosecution of at least some of principals in both bombings could have been undertaken."[27]

On June 4, 1985, CSIS agents Larry Lowe and Lynn McAdams trailed Talwinder Singh Parmar and Inderjit Singh Reyat to Vancouver Island. The agents reported to the RCMP that they had heard a noise like a "loud gunshot" in the woods. Later that month Flight 182 was bombed. After the bombing the RCMP went to the site and found remains of an electrical blasting cap. [28]

The suspects in the bombing were apparently aware that they were under surveillance, because they used pay phones and talked in code. Translator's notes of the wiretaps records this exchange between Talwinder Parmar and a follower named Hardial Singh Johal on the same day the tickets were purchased on June 20, 1985. Parmar: Did he write the story? Johal: No he didn't. Parmar: Do that work first.[29]

After this call a man called the CP Air and booked the tickets and left Johal's number. Shortly afterwards, Johal called Parmar and asked him if he "can come over and read the story he asked for". Parmar said he would be there shortly.

This conversation appears to be an order from Parmar to book the tickets used to bomb the planes. Because the original wiretaps were erased by CSIS, they were inadmissible as evidence in court.

Witness Murdered

Tara Singh Hayer, the publisher of the Indo-Canadian Times and a member of the Order of British Columbia, had provided an affidavit to the RCMP in 1995 claiming that he was present during a conversation in which Bagri admitted his involvement in the bombings. [30]

While at the London offices of fellow Sikh newspaper publisher Tarsem Singh Purewal, Hayer claims he overheard a meeting between Purewal and Bagri. In that meeting Hayer claims that Bagri stated that "if everything had gone as planned the plane would have blown up at Heathrow airport with no passengers on it. But because the plane was a half hour to three quarters of an hour late, it blew up over the ocean."

On January 24 of the same year, Purewal was killed near the offices of Desh Pardesh, leaving Hayer as the only other witness.

On November 18, 1998, Hayer was shot to death, execution-style, while getting out of his car in the garage of his home in Surrey. His statement is now inadmissible as evidence in court.

Hayer had previously survived an earlier attempt made on his life in 1988 but was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Because of his assassination the affidavit was inadmissible in court.

CSIS connection

During an interview with Bagri on October 28, 2000, RCMP agents describe Surjan Singh Gill as an agent for CSIS saying the reason that he resigned from the Babbar Khalsa was because his CSIS handlers told him to pull out.[31]

After the subsequent failure of CSIS to stop the bombing of Flight 182, the head of CSIS was replaced by Reid Morden. In an interview to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's news program, The National, Morden claims that CSIS "dropped the ball" in its handling of the case. A Security Intelligence Review Committee cleared CSIS of any wrongdoing. However, that report remains secret to this day. The Canadian government continues to insist that there was no mole involved.[citation needed]

Books, memorials and recognition

  • Eight months after the bombing, Province newspaper reporter Salim Jiwa publishes Death Of Air India Flight 182
  • 1988, "The management of Grief" by Bharati Mukherjee in the collection "The middleman and Other stories", an Indian-Canadian woman who lost all her family in the bombing narrates her experiences.
  • June 23, 2005 - A memorial unveiled in Ireland on the 20th anniversary of the bombing. Governor General Adrienne Clarkson declared the anniversary a National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism. Clarkson also ordered that every June 23, flags across Canada be flown at half mast to mark the anniversary of the Air India bombing.
  • May 2005 - Loss of Faith: How the Air-India Bombers Got Away With Murder is published by Vancouver Sun reporter Kim Bolan ISBN 978-0-7710-1131-3
  • May 28, 2007 - Jiwa and fellow reporter Don Hauka publish Margin of Terror: A reporter's twenty-year odyssey covering the tragedies of the Air India bombing ISBN 978-1552637722
  • June 21, 2007 - CBC-TV announced the start of filming for Flight 182, a documentary by Sturla Gunnarsson.[32]
  • June 22, 2007 - A memorial was unveiled in Toronto, 22 years after the bombing. Most of the people killed were from Toronto. The memorial features a sundial and a wall bearing the names of the victims, which is oriented toward Ireland. The sundial's base consists of stones from all provinces and territories of Canada, as well as the countries of the other victims.[33]