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Gory end to American love story in Agra

Lucknow, Feb. 21: An Agra auto driver burnt himself to death after allegedly killing and chopping body parts of his American wife whom he had married barely six months ago following a whirlwind romance during her visit as a tourist.

Bunty Sharma, 32, refused to step out of his kitchen even after fire had engulfed him last evening, hours after he is suspected to have killed Arianne Willinger and thrown her body near a roadside drain, police said based on accounts pieced together from the youth’s family and neighbours.

The gory end to the fairytale cross-continental romance has sent shock waves in the city that is home to the Taj, the monument to love, since TV channels began reporting the news since last night.

The tragedy came as another rude reminder in one of India’s busiest tourist hubs where a series of crimes, including a rape bid and harassment, against foreigners were reported last year.

The marriage of Bunty and Arianne, a 35-year-old who had quit a private firm job in the US and come to India on a long break, apparently cracked over a clash of lifestyles and rows fuelled by starkly different backgrounds. The police said Bunty, the son of a grocer, was a college dropout.

According to Bunty’s younger brother Munna, Arianne had in recent months been “getting irritated” over everything in the Sharma family, from “our vegetarian food to our simple lifestyle”.

Another point of friction seemed to be Bunty’s refusal to shift to the US. “Despite their problems, Bunty was deeply in love and he tried to fulfil Arianne’s wishes. But he did not earn enough. She wanted to take Bunty to US. He was not ready for that,” an officer quoted Munna, 25, as saying.

Arianne met Bunty when she visited Agra along with a group of other Americans in July last year.

“They fell in love. While the other US tourists left, Arianne stayed back. The couple married in court in October under the Special Marriage Act. Bunty’s parents accepted her. The couple rented a house where they were living but soon, the marriage became a nightmare,” Agra senior superintendent of police Shalabh Mathur said.

Frequent fights followed, with Arianne lodging an assault case against Bunty. By January, the couple began to live separately, renting homes a few kilometres apart.

Over the past few weeks, though, attempts began at reconciliation, pushed by Bunty’s friends, and the couple began to meet occasionally.

Yesterday morning, Bunty took Arianne out on his auto to a stretch on Agra’s fringes, SSP Dube said based on the accounts of some of the friends.