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Sleuth taken off UK murder trail
THE VICTIM

Calcutta, July 21: The Chandigarh detective leading the hunt for the fugitive suspect in the killing of a British schoolgirl has been taken off the case amid mounting frustration at Punjab police’s failure to make an arrest in over four months of inquiries.

Detective inspector Dinkar Gupta has been replaced by inspector-general Ravinder Gupta as head of the unit tasked with tracking Maninder Pal Singh Kohli. He has evaded police since his arrival in India on March 18, days after the rape and murder of 17-year-old Hannah Foster in southern England.

Kohli, 35, was last seen on March 28, as he left his brother, policeman Ishtpreet Singh’s Chandigarh home after receiving a late-night telephone call from the UK. He had arrived unexpectedly some nine days earlier, claiming he wished to visit their ailing mother.

“I’m no longer dealing with the case, and was posted out some two weeks ago,” Dinkar Gupta said, following British press reports identifying him as the officer leading the manhunt. “We had been trying to locate the suspect’s whereabouts, and I felt we had been making good progress on various leads.”

The detective inspector confirmed his frustration at red tape that had held up the search. “By the time all the paperwork was completed, the suspect had a big head start. He had a lot of time to plan his moves. I feel confident we should be able to find him, but it’s difficult to say how soon.”

Ravinder Gupta did not return calls to his office made by The Telegraph.

The detective inspector’s replacement comes as British police voiced their frustration at the continuing failure to track the suspect, and issued requests to the Indian authorities for further involvement in the investigation.

Detective inspector Alan Betts of Hampshire police said: “It is frustrating and in an ideal world we would be able to go on a plane and go out there and arrest him. But it is now an Indian police inquiry and we are liaising with them in order to bring about an arrest as soon as possible.”

Betts had flown to Punjab with a team of detectives in April but returned a fortnight later with the suspect still at large.

He confirmed efforts were underway to secure permission for increased British police involvement in the Indian investigation. “We have made a formal application with the Crown Prosecution Service to carry out inquiries in India.”

“A number of inquiries are needed to make sure a full file is available should court proceedings become active. The inquiries are not in connection with tracing the direct whereabouts of the suspect, this is a matter for the Indian police. Hampshire police continue to liaise closely with Indian police and remain committed to assisting the Indian authorities in every possible way,” he said.

Hampshire police have launched a new online appeal with details of the case reported in Punjabi and Hindi, along with closed-circuit television images of Kohli only hours after the Southampton student was found murdered.

The appeal, which can be found at www.hampshire.police.uk/HannahFoster.htm, is accompanied by a Rs 500,000 reward for information leading to the capture of Kohli, one of Britain’s most wanted men.

“The Web is a vital tool in enabling us to reach people all over the world, and, in particular, the subcontinent of India,” Betts said.

Hannah’s body was found in a shallow grave two days before Kohli fled to India, abandoning his wife and two children.

Hannah, described by her parents as a “graceful girl who wanted to help others”, had hoped to qualify as a doctor, and had been accepted to study medicine at Bristol and Cardiff universities.

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