Calcutta, May 15: Chandigarh police believe they are on the verge of arresting the prime suspect in the murder of a British schoolgirl in southern England two months ago.
Father of two, Maninder Pal Singh Kohli, 35, fled to India, abandoning his wife and children four days after the rape and murder of 17-year-old Hannah Foster in the southern British port of Southampton on March 14. Hannah’s body was discovered in a shallow grave two days later.
After eight weeks cutting through bureaucratic red tape, Punjab police working with a team of British detectives have now launched a series of swoops on the homes of Singh’s mother, brother and friends in the district. They believe the net is now closing around the suspect.
“Our information suggests he is not too far from the immediate area,” said a spokesman for Chandigarh police.
The suspect’s brother, Ishtpreet Singh, revealed that Maninder arrived unexpectedly at his two-bedroom home in Chandigarh on March 19. Maninder said he had come to see their mother, who is in a coma after she was knocked down by a bus in December. According to Ishtpreet, Maninder stayed for nine days, but left in haste on the night of March 28, after receiving a phone call from England. The call followed a televised public appeal in England for help in the hunt for Hannah’s killer.
“Maninder told me there was some really big problem back home in England and that he had to go back and sort it out right away,” Ishtpreet said.
“I asked him what the problem was but he wouldn’t tell me and just kept saying he had to go. He packed his bag and left the next day. I haven’t heard from him since.
“We are terribly shocked that Maninder has been named as the principal suspect for the murder of this girl.”
Three British detectives, including one who speaks Punjabi, travelled to Chandigarh a fortnight ago after liasing with Interpol in Delhi.
Additional director-general of Punjab police K.K. Attri, the region’s Interpol liaison officer, told The Telegraph: “Our officers in the field are in close cooperation with British officers from Hampshire police and we expect to be able to apprehend the suspect very soon. We are the central office involved in the investigations. I have been completing all the paperwork, and working with Interpol on all the necessary extradition procedures.”
Lucy Dibdin of Hampshire police said: “In liaison with Punjab police and India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, we have been able to establish the suspect’s movements over the last weeks. Officers from Hampshire police met with the British high commission in Delhi, and with Interpol. Investigations are ongoing. Indian police have been conducting a tremendous amount of work, inquiries are in hand, and a lot of action is underway to locate this man.”
Singh’s wife Shalinder Kaur, who has twice been questioned by British police, has appealed for her husband to turn himself in. “For my sake and the good of your children and your family, I urge you to hand yourself in to police and come back home as soon as possible,” she said in a statement.
“Wherever you are, please just go to the nearest police station and give yourself up. If you are innocent, this is the only way you can clear your name, so please come home.”
Singh was employed as a sandwich delivery driver at Hazlewood Food Services, a premises which backed on to the Hobbit pub, where Hannah had met with friends the night of her murder. He failed to turn up to work the following day, and vanished three days later.
British magistrates have issued a warrant for his arrest, which has been handed to the police in India.