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Cops: a continent between them
- Care & cash bring British policemen to Mumbai on identity hunt
A senior inspector checks crime papers shown by a british cop in Mumbai. (Reuters)

Mumbai, Sept. 23: Two policemen have come all the way from Lancashire to Mumbai to find the relatives of an unknown South Asian murder victim whose skeletal remains were found a year ago.

Or, maybe, they are here to offer a contrast to the severe constraints — especially of funds — under which Indian police function.

Detective sergeant Graham Coates and community safety officer Ali Yusuf from the Lancashire Constabulary addressed a news conference here today seeking help to identify a murdered man, possibly of Indian origin, whose skeletal remains were found in a ditch near Chorley in Lancashire in July 2002.

They have already spent Rs 50 lakh on the case and are aware that expenses could go up to Rs 75 lakh, but then, they are ready to go any length to close a case.

When the body was found, the police concluded from the injuries on the skull that the man was murdered and started the investigation.

Expert opinion suggested that the deceased was an Asian male, aged between 25 and 30 years, between 5 feet 5 inches and 5 feet 9 inches tall and of slim build.

The police launched a massive exercise to identify the dead man. A forensic expert at Manchester University made a life-size clay model of the victim and another expert from Glasgow University prepared a computer-generated image of the man’s face.

The models indicated that the man was likely to be South Asian. The forensic reports suggested that the murder had taken place between October 2000 and June 2001. It was also likely that the man was murdered somewhere else and his body taken to the ditch where it was found.

The constabulary made an appeal through several South Asian languages — Urdu, Punjabi, Gujarati and Hindi — and distributed posters among minority ethnic communities in Lancashire.

The police also roped in cricketer Virender Sehwag to make an appeal to the South Asian community in Lancashire on an audio-visual to come forward and identify the man.

Though about 4 per cent of Lancashire’s population is of South Asian origin, no one came up to identify the man. The police also set up an “incident room” at Chorley police station, which was investigating the case. Enquiries were closed at the end of April.

It was after that that the police decided a team would be sent down to India.

After Mumbai, the officers will go to Punjab, Gujarat and Delhi, the sources of most Indian immigrants to the UK.

Coates and Yusuf claim that this is not an exceptional distance. It is also on humanitarian ground: somewhere, someone must be waiting for the murdered man, says Coates.

They deny that so much of attention is being paid to the case because of the South Asian connection, or that it is a special case in any way. “This would be the course taken in any case that was unsolved. The Asian connection has brought us to India,” said Coates, asked how the police could afford so much time and money to pursue one case.

This could be the first such case, he said, but added that he was not sure. An unsolved case looks bad on their records, especially identification of bodies having become much easier with DNA tests, he said.

The Lancashire men said that they were aware of the competence of Mumbai police, which was one reason why they would collaborate and share information on the case.

But as a senior officer of Mumbai police present at the news conference said, the Lancashire project only heightened the contrast between the ways the police worked in the country and the UK. “Imagine what Rs 75 lakh could have done for us. They are spending it on one case, whereas we can only get to spend a few thousands generally on such cases,” he said.

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