A young Indian-origin woman was murdered and her right hand cut off in a west London locality, a gruesome crime that has sent shockwaves in the community and led to the arrest of her estranged husband and five other men.
Geeta Aulakh, 28, a receptionist in the popular Asian radio station Sunrise Radio, had left office on Monday as usual to go to a child-minder's house in Greenford area to collect her two sons, aged 8 and 9, but never reached there.
Police said she was attacked just yards from the home of the child-minder, at about 7 pm. Some passers-by later found her lying unconscious on the street with severe head injuries and one hand severed.
The woman, who was bleeding heavily, was taken in an ambulance to the Charing Cross Hospital, where she died four hours later, just as her mother arrived at her bedside.
Police later arrested her estranged husband, 31-year-old Harpreet Aulakh, along with five other men. Harpreet is currently being questioned by the police for the murder that sent shockwaves in the area and among the Indian community.
Geeta, who has been deescribed by her friends and family as a "smiling, cheerful and helpful" girl, separated from her husband Harpreet, or Sunny, about a year ago. The couple were in the middle of divorce proceedings.
She had married Harpreet against the wishes of her parents Nardesh, a receptionist and Lakwinder, a warehouse worker. Geeta was born in Britain to Punjabi parents, while Harpreet was born in Punjab.
Geeta, who has two young sons, was found dying on the street with serious head wounds and her right hand cut off as she went to pick up her children after work. She died four hours later in a hospital from her horrific injuries.
The 28-year-old was ambushed just yards from the home of her sons' childminder at about 7pm on Monday. A passer-by found her unconsciousness and bleeding heavily, and called an ambulance to the street in Greenford, West London.
But Geeta died in the early hours of Tuesday, just as her mother arrived at her bedside at Charring Cross Hospital in West London.
She was separated from her husband, whom she had married against her parents' wishes, and friends described him as a 'waste of space'. The couple were believed to be in the middle of divorce proceedings.
Police are investigating several theories behind the murder, including jealousy, access to the children or bringing dishonour on the family.
A friend said: "It's horrific but hugely symbolic that Geeta's right hand was cut off. She was a Sikh and all Sikhs wear a metal bangle, the kara, on their right wrist. It is a permanent reminder to live a moral and good life and once it's on you can't get it off. So her murderer was both dishonouring her and perhaps trying to show she had been dishonourable - which is just barbaric. We are all shocked and distraught by her murder as she was such a warm and friendly person, who lived for her sons."
Geeta Aulakh grew up in Southall, West London, in a middle-class family with two brothers and two sisters. At the family home on Tuesday night, a large number of relatives had gathered.
One said: "This has been a huge shock and we're all extremely upset." Geeta had moved out last year with the couple's two young sons, nine-year-old Karan and Tejdeep, eight. But friends said jobless Harpreet was devastated when she left and was trying to win his wife back.
Dr Avtar Lit, chairperson of Sunrise Radio in Southall, said Mrs Aulakh had married her estranged husband against the wishes of her family. "She was strong willed and didn't want an arranged marriage," Dr Lit added.
"She fell for this man when she was very young. Her parents didn't think he was good enough for her, and they said he was 'unproductive'. Her parents felt Geeta could do a lot better, and her father even told her he was not good enough. The couple fled to Sweden when they first got married and came back a year later. Geeta was very hardworking and was the breadwinner and Sunny, as he was known, never seemed to have a job. This created quite a few problems in their marriage and they argued a lot."
"I only found out today that he wanted her back," added Dr Lit. "That was the kind of person Geeta was, she held everything inside. She was lovely girl, intelligent and hardworking, cheerful, happy and always smiling. She was very grounded and displayed the best of East and Western values."
News producer and friend Seema Sidha said: "I was with her on Monday night when we walked home together before I caught the train. She said she was going to pick her children up from the childminder's. That is the last time I saw her and it was about 6.30pm. That was her normal routine. She would drop her kids off in the morning and pick them up after work. She was a very helpful, very happy person, always smiling. Everyone is devastated," the 31-year-old added.
The Metropolitan Police are appealing for witnesses. Anyone with information should call the incident room on 0208 358 0200 .