Support gathers in Britain for ‘local hero’ Tony Singh

February 23rd, 2008 - 9:15 am ICT by admin  

By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, Feb 23 (IANS) An ethnic Indian shopkeeper who fears he may be charged with murder after stabbing an armed burglar to death is fast gaining the status of a hero in Britain. Public opinion is solidly behind Tony Singh, who killed armed robber Liam Kilroe with the criminal’s own knife after being attacked Sunday night outside his convenience store in the town of Skelmersdale in Lancashire, northwest England.

A customers told the local Skelmersdale Advertiser newspaper: “Tony only did what he thought was right and stood up for himself, and yet he is the one facing a possible murder charge.

“The robber had form as long as your arm and simply paid the price for his own yobbery. There are going to be times when the victims fight back.”

A fellow shopkeeper said: “Tony is a much-loved shopkeeper who has worked hard all his life, often doing 13- and 14-hour days. He wouldn’t dream of harming anyone - yet it seems he is the one being treated as a criminal.”

Gaynor Bell who works opposite Tony Singh and knows the family very well said that he is a pillar of the local community.

“The Singh family do a lot for the community. Tony is not just a shopkeeper, people talk to him and he is very hardworking.”

And Sarah Vincent who works at Angels Beauty Salon, round the corner from Singh’s shop, said: “Maybe this will teach people a lesson. We didn’t know Tony personally, but when we go in the shop they are very friendly.”

Skelmersdale is a small town of less than 40,000 people in Lancashire - a region that is home to a large number of ethnic Indian and Pakistanis, many of whom once worked in textiles mills before they closed down decades ago.

But 34-year-old Tony Singh has got the support of not only ordinary Britons.

Shailesh Vara, the Conservative Party deputy leader in the British parliament, criticised the government’s failure to amend legislation in favour of citizens who defend themselves against attack.

“It is premature to comment on the facts of this case. However, it is highly regrettable that [Justice Secretary] Jack Straw did not take up my Private Member’s Bill which sought to raise the standard in such cases to protect the innocent when they act to defend themselves and protect their property.”

National newspapers have splashed Singh’s photographs on its pages, showing the bespectacled man beaming in a smart Reebok cap and a Timberland casual jacket.

On the Times newspaper’s website dozens of ordinary Britons have written to express their support and even thank Singh, with one man saying the shopkeeper deserved a medal.

Newspapers have also listed the criminal history of Liam Kilroe in detail, going back to his beginnings in1999. Kilroe absconded while on bail pending a retrial for another case. Police were attempting to track him down when he launched his final attack.

However, Singh is not the first man in Britain to find himself facing the law after confronting armed criminals.

In 1999, a Norfolk farmer, Tony Martin, shot dead a teenage burglar in his farm and served three years in prison for manslaughter, prompting strong demands by the Conservative Party for a review of the law covering self defence.

The current law permits people to use “reasonable force” to defend themselves and others. However, critics claim it is weighted in favour of the criminal.

A Lancashire Police spokesman said: “We will be submitting a file to the CPS [Crows Prosecution Service] in the next few days and it will be up to them to decide whether the force used by the shopkeeper was reasonable force. If they think he has used excessive force there is potential for a charge such as murder, manslaughter or assault.”

(Dipankar De Sarkar can be contacted at dd.sarkar@ians.in)

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