THE trial of a wealthy Black Country pensioner accused of killing his 82-year-old wife is to be delayed because of the time it will take to prepare vital medical evidence.

Pargan Singh Bhandal was not asked to enter a plea to the murder charge when he appeared at Warwick Crown Court over a video link from the prison where he is on remand.

Bhandal, aged 82, of Trehernes Drive, Pedmore, Stourbridge, has been charged with the murder of his wife Gian Kaur Bhandal, also 82, on January 22 or 23.

With the barristers in the case appearing via Skype or telephone conference facilities because of the coronavirus situation, Judge Sylvia de Bertodano apologised to Bhandal for the ‘technical difficulties’ which delayed the start of the hearing.

Prosecutor Richard Smith QC said there were concerns about the planned trial date of July 6.

He explained that a report by a pathologist specialising in bone injuries, which he said was ‘essential to the prosecution’ because it would deal with the timing of injuries suffered by Mrs Bhandal, would not be ready until the end of June at the earliest.

At a previous hearing it was said‘the primary issue’ in the trial may not be whether Mrs Bhandal had specific injuries, but when they had occurred.

The case had been listed for Bhandal to enter a plea to the murder charge – but Mr Smith said that following a psychiatric report, there may also be a question of whether he is fit to enter a plea.

As a result, it was possible Bhandal will have to be seen by a second psychiatrist before that issue can be resolved.

And the combination of the two issues led Mr Smith to suggest: “Perhaps we should vacate the trial date, because it can’t be met.”

Stefan Kolodynski, defending, said: “We agree. With the best will in the world, the professor’s report will be the end of June, and we will require our own expert to examine his findings.”

So Judge de Bertodano decided: “I will vacate the trial date. We will not set another one now. We need another directions hearing within the next four weeks.”

There was also to be an application for Bhandal to be granted bail, but Mr Kolodynski asked for that to be adjourned to give the prosecution time to check a proposed address and a proposed carer for Bhandal.

The judge adjourned the bail application, which she said should be listed again ‘as soon as possible’.

She said: “I am aware Mr Bhandal is 82 years of age, and prison is not necessarily a suitable place in the present circumstances.”

During an earlier hearing in the magistrates’ court, prosecutor Baldev Singh Atwal outlined: “At 11.13 on the morning of January 23, West Midlands Ambulance Service received a 999 call from Bhandal’s son reporting the discovery of his deceased mother in the bedroom at the address.”

After paramedics attended at 2.05 that afternoon they conducted enquiries during which it was said that Mrs Bhandal had been dead at 8.30.

The apparent discrepancy in times led to the police being informed – and a pathologist’s examination disclosed that she had suffered a fractured sternum, a broken arm and several broken ribs, it was alleged.

It was said by family members that she had fallen, but following an investigation, Bhandal was charged with her murder.