Snake on a Plane

Continental Airlines had a cold-blooded killer on board but refused law enforcement's pleas to land

"What if he had decided to commit a suicidal act on the plane? We have seen people set fires in bathrooms on planes, take hostages in desperation by pretending to have a weapon and what have you. The only right thing for Continental to have done is land that plane as soon as possible."

By the accounts of her friends, coworkers, and family, Navi Kaur usually hid the desperation and unhappiness of her life as Raju Grewal's wife.

Raju Grewal’s travels in March included a murderous stop in Phoenix.
Raju Grewal’s travels in March included a murderous stop in Phoenix.
Continental Airlines refused to say much about the  potentially dangerous snafu.
Continental Airlines refused to say much about the potentially dangerous snafu.

A sensitive soul whose natural beauty was equaled by her estimable mind, the native of India had been living in the States for years. But she remained close to her family, and to her homeland's cultural norms.

In 2001, she married an Indian man she had known for all of three days, after a meeting arranged by family members.

The ex-husband, who lives in Phoenix, told the Toronto Globe and Mail after the murder that he had known within days after marrying Kaur that her strong-willed, independent personality spelled trouble for the union.

The couple divorced in 2005, with Kaur assuming ownership of the home on East Redwood that later would be the site of her murder. That year, she met Raju Grewal in a meeting apparently arranged by Grewal's sister, who knew Kaur's parents.

Kaur came from a prominent family — her father is a retired Indian Police Service superintendent — and they were eager for her to marry fellow divorcé Grewal.

Dutifully, she did so at a ceremony in India later that year.

But Kaur soon confided to friends that Grewal tried to control her every move once he had slipped the wedding ring on her finger.

For starters, he wanted his new wife to quit her top-drawer job in Scottsdale to be with him in Canada. Though he had been an accountant in India, Grewal had worked in Vancouver for a few years as a truck driver and forklift operator.

But Kaur declined to make the move, a relentless source of humiliation to her new husband. The couple spent little time together, just swapping weekend visits every few months.

A neighbor and close friend of Kaur's named Sravanthi Sankranthi later told Phoenix police that long absences from Grewal did not made Kaur's heart grow fonder.

Shortly before she died, Kaur told Sankranthi that Grewal's incessant phone calls from Canada would make her teeth chatter with stress. She expressed concern about her husband's mental health, saying he was depressed and irrational at times, especially about the state of the strained marriage.

Gina Wilkins, who was Navi Kaur's manager and good friend, later told a detective that Kaur had spoken with Grewal by phone on the night before the murder.

Kaur confided in Wilkins that she had told her husband she wanted a divorce.

Wilkins said Kaur told her that Grewal had responded, "If you want a divorce, tell me in person because you might as well kill me."

Raju Grewal apparently made plans to fly to Phoenix the following day, March 29. Terrified at having to face her husband in person, Kaur expressed her fears to Wilkins a few hours before she was supposed to pick him up at Sky Harbor International Airport late that afternoon.

Wilkins said she implored her friend to seek refuge at a cousin's home in the East Valley, but Kaur said that Grewal would track her down.

Wilkins last spoke to Kaur by cell phone about 5:25 p.m., at which time she offered her own home as sanctuary from Raju Grewal. Kaur thanked her but said she already was on her way to the airport.

Navi Kaur's colleagues immediately became concerned when the usually punctual manager didn't show up for work at 9 the next morning, March 30. Late that morning, Gina Wilkins and another employee drove to Kaur's home in Ahwatukee, several miles away, to check on her welfare.

They got to Redwood Lane a little after noon.

No one answered the front doorbell, so the women walked around the side of the house. Though a locked gate stymied them, they peered in through a kitchen window and saw broken glass, upended furniture and a knife on the floor.

Distressed, they retreated to the front yard, where Kaur's pal and neighbor, Sravanthi Sankranthi, wondered what was up. Sankranthi had a key to the house, and the three women stepped in the front door, calling out loudly for their friend.

When Kaur didn't answer, one of the women called 911, while the other two went to look for her.

Thankfully, the women didn't find Navi Kaur's beaten body. But they did see that the ceiling fan in the master bedroom had been pulled down. They also saw the yellow rope, another knife, and blood — some of it smeared on the tile floor, as if a body had been dragged.

Fearing the worst, the trio decided to wait outside for Phoenix police.

As they waited, Gina Wilkins noticed an airline itinerary with Raju Grewal's name on the ground. It noted Grewal's trip the previous day from Vancouver on U.S. Airways.

She placed a rock on top of it to keep it from blowing away.

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It is outrageous that Continental Airlines allowed this murderous felon to get away with his crime. I also fail to understand one of the previous comments suggesting this was a "crime of passion." This was a premeditated, calculated, bloody, brutal act of domestic violence vengeance. Given this man's obvious plot to fly to Phoenix and escape to India, I have no idea how any person with any common sense could conclude that this was a "crime of passion".

True, the man was arrested on his arrival in India. Did anyone note that this differed from law enforcement's plan for him, which was to return him to the US before he legally entered India through customs? Guess they didn't read carefully enough. Instead of swiftly returning him here for trial, he is now bogged down in the Indian court system where the case will languish for years with no guarantee that he will ever be returned. This is a perversion of justice, and Continental Airlines is responsible for it.


hey this is not imaginary story ok. anyone knows wat happened after this? don't speak just for time pass. and even news paper also didn't write wat happened after this? this is really very bad. i'm pleasing, please don't write just for money. media is very powerful so help us to do something good. after flight landing here police arrested him but he didn't take back from new delhi to U.S court and he didn't punished. i'm the person from navneet sister relation. if the flight would landed there, he might be got into jail and he would get severe punishment but now the main case is not murder? how to take him back from india to U.S? and i wanted to know wat he is doing now? if the media is really taking care about people life then they should write here, after that news (don't say story) what is happening now in this case?. bye gopi

joe ryan
joe ryan

It's obvious that nobody at the Times spoke to, or should I say, listened to the people at the airline. Continental made arrangements for the guy to be picked up when they arrived in india. There was probably a marshal on the flight due to the part of the world that flight goes york, boston, london etc.I suggest the Times do a little more research before slamming the airline. This would have been a very expensive more for the airline to turn around. Think about the other 299 passengers who would have been put out because of this. Continental would most likely have had to cancel the flight when it returned because of crew duty times. That passenger went through the screening process at the airport and got through ok so it appears that he was no harm to anyone else. He was just running. it's pointless to think this guy would draw attention to himself in an environment that is already full of law enforcement of various types.joe

Chad Vanegas
Chad Vanegas

I like stories that let me make up my own mind about a topic, though this one was a tough call. I can see both points of view on it, though I think if the cops really can prove something, then the airlines or whoever should go for it. Very interesting story!

Mark Nelson
Mark Nelson

Ah, the arrogance of Law Enforcement agents. Do exactly what they say, when they say to do it, no questions or arguements allowed, no matter the cost to taxpayers and others. The exact same arrogance that is used to shut down vital freeways and transportation corridors used by hundreds of thousands of people for half a day or more while lethal accidents or murders are slowly investigated. Grewal didn't commit a cold-blooded murder, but instead a hot blooded crime of passion. No evidence was presented in the story that Grewal was a substantial or immediate threat to other passengers. No evidence of a prior history of violence. There was no way he could escape while in flight. Therefore, there was no significant reason why law enforcement couldn't wait for him to be arrested at the plane's next scheduled stop and extradited back to Phoenix, just like hundreds of other suspects are every year. Instead, law enforcement demanded a flashy turnaround that would have greatly inconvenienced hundreds of passengers and cost over a hundred thousand dollars of probably unrecoverable expenses for Continental. Good going, Continental! Thanks for having the commonsense to know that security concerns can be weighed against other factors, instead of just assuming the worst. Thanks for resisting the pressure to treat all passengers like cattle that can be herded around at the whim of government officials.


Much of this article makes no sense. For one thing, the murder suspect was arrested when the plane finished its flight and landed safely, just like any reasonable person would expect. Surely you called a number of "aviation experts" before reaching someone who thought turning around a plane full of fuel and landing it in New York with a suspected killer on board was a good idea.

If someone thinks that an airplane door can be opened in flight, and that flights from New York to Delhi get anywhere near Germany, it's silly to take their opinions on aviation safety seriously.

I'll guess that Continental recently got a call from the New Times' sales staff and said no to advertising with you?

Alexander F.
Alexander F.

Scary story. What were these people (Continental) thinking?

Alex Franklin

T. O'Sullivan
T. O'Sullivan

Continental Airlines should be held accountable for their lack of cooperationwith Law Enforcement Agencies, who in detail, described the dangers to other passengers on the same flight with a Non-U.S. citizen fleeing after committing a horrific torture/murder.

Every U.S. citizen should NOT fly Continental Airlines. If Continental's loyalty is to their almighty profits (their comments to Law Enforcemnt Agencies"Do you know how much it would cost in fuel to turn the plane around") and/orto criminals just because they are a paid customer then so be it. The insane, the mentally ill, terrorist and murderers can book flights on Continental Airlines - I have sent this story to thousands of e-mail receipents and would hope they pass this story along also.

Continental's priorities are with their 'costs' not to their passengers safety.

I will NEVER book another flight - in the U.S. or abroad with Continental Airlines.


T. O'Sullivan

Jason Joyner
Jason Joyner

The Phoenix P.D. officer I'm sure is a fine officer and I do see his point. But if the plane would to turn around it would send the wrong signal to the suspect. He might panic, take hostages or worse, try to bring down the plane. By landing without anything out of the norm the suspect was taken into custody with no more issues.

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