Calcutta, April 18: An Indian-origin driver, the prime suspect in the murder of a British schoolgirl a month ago, is believed to be at large in New Delhi, British police sources said last night.
Maninder P. Singh, 35, is thought to have fled to India, abandoning his wife and children four days after the vicious rape and murder of 17-year-old Hannah Foster in the southern British port of Southampton on March 14.
Two British detectives are understood to have flown in to New Delhi to liaise with local police in a bid to secure the suspect’s arrest and extradition, following a manhunt launched by Interpol.
Southampton magistrates have issued a warrant for the suspect’s arrest, which has been handed to police in India.
Singh is believed to have fled to his mother’s home in Punjab two days after Hannah’s body was discovered in a shallow grave. He is subsequently believed to have travelled to New Delhi.
The teenager had told friends that she was approached close to her home on at least two occasions by an Asian man who called her by name, prompting fears that she was being stalked.
Hannah made an emergency call to police during her abduction, but was unable to speak and the call was terminated. Experts who analysed the recording have identified a man’s voice in the background.
Singh, a father of two, failed to turn up at work the day after Hannah disappeared. He was employed as a sandwich delivery driver at Hazlewood Food Services, a premises which backed on to the Hobbit pub, where Hannah met with friends on the night of her murder.
She was last seen alive waving goodbye to her friends at a bus stop close to the suspect’s home, where he lived with his wife Shalinder Kaur and children aged four and six.
Following a tip off, British police conducted a swoop on the suspect’s flat, just a few hundred yards from Hannah’s home. Singh’s wife was taken in for questioning on his likely movements following his disappearance.
Neighbours reported that the couple had a highly volatile relationship, with frequent rows and disturbances. Singh is understood to have been heavily in debt due to his gambling habit. The couple had recently sold their flat and were planning to start a new life in India.
Leading the investigation, detective inspector Tony Adams of Hampshire police said: “We believe that the suspect left the country on March 18 and travelled to India four days after Hannah’s abduction and two days after her body was discovered.
“We are currently liaising with police overseas, Interpol, immigration services, international airports and the Crown Prosecution Service in order to progress this matter swiftly, locate this man and return him to the UK.”
The Indian government has vowed to do all it can to assist in the hunt for the killer.
“We will do everything possible to help once the extradition process begins,” said a spokesman for the Indian High Commission in London.