ONE of the senior officers in charge of the investigation into the murder of an Asian man more than 13 years ago has called for a fresh inquiry into the case, which was never solved.

Graeme Pearson, formerly Assistant Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police, said the death of Surjit Singh Chhokar, which drew comparisons with the Stephen Lawrence case, was "unfinished business" and called for Scotland's Crown Office to reconsider investigating what remains one of Britain's most notorious unsolved murders.

Father-of-two Mr Chhokar, 32, a waiter, was stabbed to death in Overton, Lanarkshire, in 1998 after a confrontation with a group of white men. Despite two High Court trials, in which the three accused blamed each other, no-one was convicted.

After a judicial inquiry into the case, former Lord Advocate Colin Boyd, QC, apologised for "incompetence, ignorance and institutional racism" in the way police and prosecutors had dealt with the murder.

The Chhokar family lawyer, Aamer Anwar, has already said he will ask the Crown Office to reopen the inquiry into the killing following the reform of double jeopardy laws that stopped the same person being tried twice for the same offence.

Mr Pearson, who was one of the leading officers in the case and who is now a Labour MSP, has spoken out after Gary Dobson and David Norris were finally jailed this week for the murder of Mr Lawrence nearly 19 years ago.

Mr Chhokar was on his way home from work in November 1998 when attackers pounced outside his white girlfriend's home. Seconds later, he was dead, stabbed through the heart, in an apparent attempt to stop him going to the police about a benefits cheque stolen from him that day and cashed.

Ronnie Coulter, 43, his cousin Andrew Coulter, 30, and David Montgomery, 34, appeared in court charged with the murder.

But the Crown initially only prosecuted Ronnie Coulter and he was acquitted of the murder after blaming the other two.

In November 2000, Andrew Coulter and David Montgomery stood trial, but they were also cleared of the murder. They blamed Ronnie Coulter, who was later jailed for two years for lying in the witness box.

In the face of mounting criticism, then Lord Advocate Mr Boyd ordered two separate inquiries into the fiasco.

Sir Anthony Campbell, then Justice of the Supreme Court of Northern Ireland, headed an investigation into the legal tactics adopted in the case. He criticised the Crown tactics of two trials and said the correct decision would have been to indict the two Coulters for murder using Montgomery as a witness.