Fri, Sep 14, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Indian businessman likely to be charged in gruesome killings

DEAF EAR Residents of Nithari said 40 people, mostly children, have gone missing since 2004, and accused local police of ignoring the tragedies

AFP , NEW DELHI

A court in India has told police to charge a businessman with rape and murder nine months after the body parts of almost 20 people, mainly children, were found at his home, reports said yesterday.

Police had already charged a domestic servant at the house in an affluent suburb of the capital New Delhi, initially alleging that businessman Moninder Singh Pandher was "not aware of the killings."

PREVIOUS CHARGES

Pandher has so far only been charged with concealing evidence and using prostitutes, but a special court hearing the case now says he should also face charges for the gruesome murders, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

"There is an adequate prima facie case to add the charges of rape and murder against Pandher," judge Rama Jain said.

RIOTS

The killings came to light in December and sparked riots in Noida, a suburb of New Delhi where upmarket residences have sprung up next to poor villages like Nithari, where most of the victims came from.

Dozens of bags containing human remains, remnants of clothing and bones were dug up by local police from a drain next to Pandher's home.

The federal Central Bureau of Investigation took over the case following a nationwide uproar over police incompetence, with at least one cop charged for accepting bribes and suppressing evidence and several others suspended.

FORTY MISSING

Nithari residents say 40 people, mostly children, have gone missing since 2004, and have accused police of ignoring their complaints because they were poor.

Some of the victims were as young as three and police believe most of the murder victims were raped or sexually assaulted.

The accused servant, Surender Koli, has allegedly confessed to cannibalism and necrophilia.

The latest court order came after the father of one victim petitioned for Pandher to also be charged.

ALLEGED CONFESSION

Nand Lal, a lawyer who is representing the father of a 26-year-old girl whose remains were among those found, said Pandher had admitted to the killings when interrogated by police.

Lal said he was present at the questioning and Pandher's confession led to the discovery of a saw used to dismember the bodies.

But the investigating agency has consistently said Pandher was traveling or not at home when most of the murders took place.

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