London, Jan. 23: The search for missing Indian student Souvik Pal has ended in tragedy — the body of the 18-year-old was found at 2pm yesterday in the Bridgewater Canal not far from Manchester United’s football stadium at Old Trafford.
Police said the initial post-mortem had proved “inconclusive” but there were “no suspicious circumstances”.
This is as clear an indication as any that Souvik is not considered the victim of a race attack — after all, another Indian student, Anuj Bidve, 23, was shot dead in Salford by a deranged white youth on December 26, 2011, as he was walking with friends into Manchester.
The police told The Telegraph today that Souvik’s body was found by their specialist frogmen searching the canal.
“Further toxicology tests will be carried out,” a spokesperson said.
Souvik was last seen at 11pm attending a New Year’s Eve party at a club, the Warehouse Project, in Manchester. He had just sent an SMS to a friend and called his father Santanu in India to wish him a happy new year. Then he went incommunicado.
What happened at the club remains a mystery.
Souvik, apparently a very bright boy who had come from India to study product design at Manchester Metropolitan University — he had received offers from many other universities, including Singapore — was reported missing by a worried flat mate when he did not return from his night out. DJs performing that night included Annie Mac and Felix Da Housecat.
The police had issued a description. The 5’7’’ teenager, with a pronounced “Indian accent”, had a scar on the right side of his forehead and when last seen he was wearing a pale denim long-sleeved shirt with a collar, grey chino trousers, and navy blue leather boots.
The discovery of the body is a heart-rending end for Santanu Pal, who had flown over from Bangalore to search for his son.
“I am proud of my son and I will stay here until I get him back,” he had said at one point.
Although the police had mobilised a big team to search for Souvik, Santanu stood outside the Old Trafford stadium one day handing out leaflets appealing for help in tracking down his missing son. It emerged Souvik had trained for a part-time job serving refreshments at the stadium and worked at Manchester United’s game against West Bromwich Albion on December 29.
Santanu had approached Keith Vaz, the Labour MP and home affairs select committee chairman who has almost become the minister for Indian tragedies — he has supported the distraught families of Anuj Bidve and Mangalore nurse Jacintha Saldanha, who took her own life.
In Delhi, Souvik’s mother, Mahuya, even approached the visiting British public health minister, Anna Soubry, who, Vaz said, was “very concerned about the case”.
The Labour MP for Manchester Central, Lucy Powell, and a local councillor, Afzal Khan, were also contacted.
“I have spoken to the officer in charge of the investigation and he tells me there are 14 officers working on the case,” Vaz had said. “In my experience that is a lot of police effort.”
In Manchester, Souvik’s friends had turned up for a silent march to the football stadium. A number of appeals were made, including the use of digital advertising hoardings at Manchester United’s Premier League home game against Liverpool.
“Everybody is trying to lend a hand,” Santanu had acknowledged. “I’m really overwhelmed that Souvik’s friends, classmates and the Indian community have turned out today. We need to get Souvik back home. Everybody here is anxious to get him back. I am assuming the police are not leaving any stone unturned.”
The police had hinted that the search might not have a happy outcome.
Detective chief inspector Colin Larkin, from Greater Manchester police, had said: “With every day that passes, we are becoming more concerned for Souvik’s welfare. As you can imagine, his family in India is fraught with worry. His father has now made the journey to the UK, such is the concern from his loved ones. We are grateful to Manchester Metropolitan University for their support for what is clearly a very difficult time for Souvik’s friends.”
At a police press conference, Santanu had made a desperate appeal: “If anyone can help, please call the police. This has been a very difficult time for our family back in India, including Souvik’s younger brother, who views him as a role model.”
A police statement issued today said: “The post-mortem was carried out last night, the cause of Souvik’s death was inconclusive. There will be further toxicology tests carried out to establish the cause of death. Officers in Old Trafford have identified the body of a man found in water in the Bridgewater Canal as that of missing Souvik Pal. At around 2pm on Tuesday 22 January, 2013, specialist officers made the discovery in the Bridgewater Canal near Old Trafford football stadium.”
There was a brief comment from detective chief inspector Colin Larkin: “Our thoughts and condolences are with Souvik’s family at this devastating time and our officers are doing all they can to support them. We do not believe there are any suspicious circumstances surrounding Souvik’s death and a file will be submitted to the Coroner in due course.”