Canadian Taxi Driver Homicides: Gurnam Singh Dhaliwal Previous page    Next page • Driver Profiles

Gurnam Singh Dhaliwal

Winnipeg, Manitoba / April 5, 1986

In the early morning of Saturday, April 5, 1986, Gurnam Singh Dhaliwal, 42, was driving one of the four Unicity taxicabs that he owned. At about 2:30 a.m. he acknowledged a trip that dispatched him to apartment 117, 50 Prevette Street in Winnipeg's East Kildonan district. This was the last anyone heard of him.

At about 8 a.m. family members called the Unicity dispatch office and were told that he was still working because the computer terminal in his cab was still signed on. A message was sent to Mr. Dhaliwal several times asking him to phone home but he did not respond.

It was later determined that the address Mr. Dhaliwal had been dispatched to was fictitious. Other Unicity taxis were told to be on the lookout for his cab, which was found behind the Winnipeg bus depot at about 4:30 p.m. The interior was stained with blood and Mr. Dhaliwal's trip sheets, keys and a "printing device" (presumably for credit card transactions) were all missing.

A parking ticket had been placed on the windshield several hours earlier. The wipers had been working when the engine was turned off, suggesting that it had been raining when the car was abandoned. Some rain had fallen between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Residents of the apartment block at 50 Prevette Street told police that the exterior doors were locked overnight and that no one could get in without a key. The call could have come from a pay phone at either of two nearby convenience stores, but staff could not remember seeing anyone suspicious.

Dozens of cab drivers joined the search for Mr. Dhaliwal. On April 7 his body was found in a ditch alongside a service road behind Red River College. He had been stabbed 40 times.

In October, 1986, two men were arrested and charged with Mr. Dhaliwal's murder on the strength of accusations made by a female acquaintance. The men came to trial in April, 1988, but the case collapsed when the woman broke down under questioning by the Crown prosecutor and claimed that she had made a false statement under pressure from the police. The judge directed the jury to return a verdict of not guilty. One man was released and the other was returned to jail on an unrelated charge.

The defence lawyers criticized the police and Crown for proceeding against their clients, claiming that fingerprint evidence taken from Mr. Dhaliwal's cab pointed to another man as the murderer. This turned out to be a 23-year-old resident of Prevette Street. He had been called as a prosecution witness and was present in the courtroom.

The fiasco came at a very bad time for the Winnipeg police. Not long before, while pursuing suspects in a car theft, a police officer had shot and killed a local Aboriginal leader named J. J. Harper who happened to be passing by. An internal investigation into the Harper killing exonerated the officer involved but irregularities in the investigation led to charges of a coverup.

The result was a judicial inquiry into the Harper case (along with another case concerning the RCMP handling of the murder of a young Aboriginal woman several years earlier.) In September, 1989, just before he was to testify at the inquiry, the officer chiefly responsible for the internal investigation committed suicide. This same officer was the lead investigator in the Dhaliwal case. [Next column]

Gurnam Singh Dhaliwal. (Source: Winnipeg Free Press, April 7, 1986, p. 1)

Police took the new suspect into custody at the end of the abortive trial but he was not charged with Mr. Dhaliwal's murder until he sent a written confession to a local television station in the summer of 1989. The man was convicted of the murder early in July, 1990 and hanged himself in jail ten days later.

During the killer's trial witnesses called by both the defence and the prosecution raised serious questions about the initial police investigation. A Unicity taxi driver testified that he had seen Mr. Dhaliwal's cab on the night of the murder and that it was being driven by a white male. After the arrest of the two initial suspects -- who were Aboriginal -- he informed the police eight times that they had the wrong men.

As a result of these questions the Winnipeg police launched an internal review of the Dhaliwal investigation. The review found nothing wrong with actions of the investigating officers.

Following Mr. Dhaliwal's murder local cab drivers pressed the Manitoba Taxicab Board to require the installation of safety shields in all Winnipeg taxicabs. In November, 1986 the provincial minister in charge of the Taxicab Board, Gerard Lecuyer, promised to issue an order making shields mandatory, but backed down in the face of protests from cab companies and owners. Under the authority of the Workplace Health and Safety Act, Lecuyer then ordered companies and owners to submit safety improvement plans by December 5. Some 30 owners had not yet submitted plans when Lawrence Bembin was murdered in mid-January, 1987. Shields were not made mandatory until after the murder of Pritam Deol in 2001.