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13 Feb 2009 16:03
An Indian court sentenced a businessman and his domestic employee to death on Friday for the murder of a young girl—one of 19 victims in a case that has shocked the country.
Moninder Singh Pandher and his servant Surinder Koli were found guilty on Thursday of the rape and murder of 14-year-old Rimpa Halder, and face trial on 18 similar counts plus charges of abduction.
Most of their alleged victims were children.
There was nationwide revulsion in December 2006 after police recovered skulls, bones and body parts from sewerage drains near Pandher’s house—dubbed the “House of Horrors”—in Noida, a wealthy satellite city of the Indian capital New Delhi.
Koli confessed to cannibalism and necrophilia.
Judge Rama Jain called the gruesome crimes the “rarest of rare” in declaring the sentence.
India has not carried out an execution since 2004, although death sentences are still handed down.
The victim’s family rejoiced at the sentence.
“We are happy with the court’s decision. It shows that poor people like us can also get justice.
This is victory for all children in the country,” said Halder’s father Anil.
In 2007 police said Koli confessed to having abducted children from a slum area, then killing them in his employer’s home and disposing of the remains in drains.
Some of the victims were as young as three and police believe most of the murder victims were raped or sexually assaulted.
Koli reportedly admitted under interrogation that he raped children as young as three, had sex with the corpses of his victims and once tried to eat human organs, believing cannibalism cured impotency.
In all, police found 69 bags filled with human parts from sewers outside Pandher’s home.
Pandher’s son Karan told reporters he would rather his father was executed immediately than have to face trial on the remaining counts which could take years, given India’s slow-moving justice system.
“I would rather wish that my father is given capital punishment,” right away, his son said.
Pandher’s son previously blamed media pressure for his father’s guilty verdict.
Police initially said that Pandher was “not aware of the killings” but a court still ordered him to be charged with rape and murder.
The killings sparked riots when they came to light in Noida.
Upmarket residences have sprung up next to poor villages such as Nithari, from where most of the victims came.
Nithari residents say 40 people, mostly children, have gone missing since 2004, and have accused police of ignoring their complaints because they were poor.
Six police officials were sacked for negligence in the case in 2007, prompting the federal Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take over the investigation.—Sapa-AFP
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