Anyone who has worked in kitchens knows hospo can be an incredibly tense environment. But things took a nightmarish turn in a Ballarat Indian restaurant on October 25th last year, when a confrontation between a chef and diner turned fatal.
The customer, Abdullah Siddiqi, who brought a bottle of Jim Beam to the Ballarat Curry House, was reportedly behaving in a drunk, distressed, and aggressive way. When he confronted the chef Hari Prasad Dhakal about the quality of the food, a fight broke out that culminated in Dhakal stabbing Siddiqi.
This week, the 49-year-old chef stood trial at the Supreme Court, where he pleaded not guilty to the murder. The court heard several perspectives on how things went so awry, according to The Age.
Passerby Ashley Hardey was looking at the menu on the restaurant window at 8PM when he noticed Siddiqi. He told the court: "He [Siddiqi] was sitting there with his head in his hands. [He] looked in a distressed state, like something may have happened."
Siddiqi's widow told the court that the account sounded out of character for her husband, who she maintains was not an aggressive person and didn't drink: "I'm not aware of any problem. This is a complete shock. I don't know what happened and I wasn't there."
When questioned, waitress Sonia Kumari agreed through a Hindi interpreter that the encounter erupted over food. Allegedly, Mr Dhakal said to Mr Siddiqi, "If you don't like the food don't worry about paying, just leave the restaurant."
She also agreed with Dhakal's version of events: that the customer pushed him inside the bar area, held him down, and swore at him. But when things escalated she left the scene as she felt unsafe, so she didn't witness the fatal stabbing.
The restaurant owner, Upender Bhan, has also made a statement in support of his staff member, calling the chef a perfectionist who took pride in his work and was never aggressive.
Dhakal's defense lawyer said Dhakal would plead self-defence, claiming that Siddiqi made a slicing action across his throat and went for a knife. The hearing will be held at the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne next Friday.
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