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It reads like a Canadian dream gone horribly wrong.

Harpaljit Sandhu is accused of murdering the woman he followed to Canada from India to marry, and of attempting to kill their 23-year-old daughter.

The Surrey family's close friends say they can't fathom how this could happen to a couple they describe as kind and warm and who, despite veiled references to "minor" business problems, seemed genuinely happy.

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When RCMP arrived at the house in the Newton neighbourhood Tuesday afternoon in a response to a call about shots fired, they found Manjit Sandhu dead and her daughter Sabrina Sandhu seriously injured by gunshots. Mr. Sandhu and a 17-year-old male who lives in the house were taken into custody. The teen was later released without being charged; RCMP are withholding his name because of the ongoing investigation.

Harpaljit Sandhu, 53, is charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder.

"He was so good to her. I don't know what happened that day; I can't even believe it," said Kamaljit Sekhon, who had been friends with Ms. Sandhu since meeting her in Calgary in the early 1980s.

Ms. Sekhon said Ms. Sandhu moved to Calgary from Ludhiana, India. Mr. Sandhu, who is also from Ludhiana, joined Ms. Sandhu in Calgary, where they were married. The couple moved shortly afterward to Winnipeg and a few years later to Surrey, where Ms. Sekhon had relocated.

Ms. Sekhon remembered Ms. Sandhu as a warm, hospitable woman who was a wonderful cook and "the best mother in the world" to her three children: Sabrina, Manraj and Sukhman, 12. Manraj and Sukhman are staying with Mr. Sandhu's sister in Surrey, Ms. Sekhon said, adding that the ordeal is "very difficult" for them. A woman answering the door at the aunt's house said no one wished to comment.

Sabrina was studying at Simon Fraser University and working for Revenue Canada; her mother worked for facilities-management company Sodexho in the housekeeping department of Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock.

A Sodexho spokeswoman said the company was not commenting right now.

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She said news of the shooting was "hard-hitting" for the staff who worked with Ms. Sandhu.

Ms. Sekhon said Mr. Sandhu "wasn't really doing anything" in a work capacity in Surrey. He had a taxi business in Penticton and the family had been planning to move there, she said.

"He was looking after the business; he was back and forth almost every week," she said, adding that Ms. Sandhu would often accompany him.

Mr. Sandhu is listed as the owner of Penticton Luxury Taxi & Limo Services Ltd. Ms. Sandhu went to that city just a week ago, Ms. Sekhon said.

B.C. Registry Services records state the company is not in good standing and is "in the process of being dissolved."

Ms. Sekhon said: "I've never heard them say they have any problems with money, never. They were living a top-quality life. I know everything she would buy would be top of the line."

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But the company, incorporated in March of 2006, may not even have had a licence to operate.

It applied to the Passenger Transportation Board in September of 2006 to transfer a licence from another company to Mr. Sandhu's, but the application was withdrawn in April of 2007.

Board director and secretary Jan Broocke said there is no record of a licence having been issued for Penticton Luxury Taxi & Limo Services and the company would not have been able to operate without one.

B.C. Registry Services has two Surrey addresses listed for the company: one at the family's home on 72nd Avenue and one at the Buckley Hogan Law Office, where partner Rand Buckley said his firm acts as legal adviser for Mr. Sandhu's company. He said he does not know whether the company was operating in Penticton and could not confirm it was being dissolved.

Parmjit Badesha said Ms. Sandhu was her best friend. Sabrina was "like a daughter" to her, she added, and their sons played together often.

Ms. Badesha said the teenager police questioned was Ms. Sandhu's son Manraj, who she said is 17 going on 18.

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She said she does not know what could have precipitated the shooting, but Ms. Sandhu had spoken to her about concerns regarding the business.

"She had a little business problem, the taxi business. That's all she told me. Very little, like a minor problem," Ms. Badesha said.

"She was always happy, but for two, three months she had a business problem. She wasn't as happy. In 20 years, I never saw her like that."

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