India gang rape suspect found dead in cell
Reuters, AFP and APNEW DELHI--The driver of the bus in which a young Indian woman was gang-raped and fatally injured in December hanged himself in his jail cell on Monday, prison authorities said, but his family and lawyer said they suspected “foul play.”
March 12, 2013, 12:19 am TWN
Ram Singh, the main accused in India's most high-profile criminal case, killed himself just before dawm in a cell he shared with three inmates in New Delhi's Tihar jail, prison spokesman Sunil Gupta said.
Singh fashioned a noose from threads torn from the mat he slept on and hanged himself from a grille in the ceiling before dawn. While there were closed circuit cameras throughout Tihar, India's highest-security prison, there were none in individual cells, Gupta said.
Gupta could not say how long it would have taken Singh to make the noose or how he had managed to loop it through the grille, which was 8 feet (2.3 meters) above the floor. He may have stood on a plastic bucket, Indian media reported.
Singh's lawyer, V.K. Anand, said his client had been composed and calm when he spoke to him in court on Friday and “didn't have any complaints.” Singh, who faced the death penalty if convicted of murder, had not been on suicide watch, Anand and Gupta said.
“I know he had a few complaints of jail authorities torturing him, but nothing that would make him take his own life. We can't rule out foul play. Nothing is adding up,” Anand said.
Anand has previously always denied that his client was being maltreated in prison.
'He was murdered'
Police have described Singh as the ringleader of five men and a juvenile on trial for the Dec. 16 attack on the 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist in the Indian capital. All six accused have pleaded not guilty to rape and murder.
Singh's death raises questions about the prosecution's case against the remaining five accused, some lawyers said.
“The others accused in this case will now take the opportunity to say that Ram Singh was the main conspirator and they were forced into it and as a result they can get lighter punishments,” said Supreme Court lawyer Ravi Kant.
Singh's father cast doubt on the official version of events.
“He confessed about his mistake, then why would he commit suicide? He was prepared for any punishment the government would have given him,” Mange Lal Singh said.
“Ram Singh did not commit suicide, he was murdered. He was first murdered and then his clothes were torn off to hang his corpse in his cell,” he said.
Singh's mother cried uncontrollably and beat her chest as her husband helped her into an auto rickshaw in the Delhi slum where they live. “He left me,” she said repeatedly. The parents were headed to a hospital to see their son's body.
India's Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde called the incident “a major lapse” by the prison service and said security would be boosted for four other suspects lodged in Tihar who appeared in court on Monday.
“It is a suicide, the preliminary reports show... but we are awaiting the enquiry report to come,” he told a press conference.
The family of the victim, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student who was on her way home with a male friend when she was attacked, denounced the jail authorities and said Singh had escaped justice.