|A computer-generated picture shows Kohli with beard
Calcutta, Oct. 24: Police in Punjab have been handed digitally-enhanced images of the prime suspect in the murder of a British schoolgirl in southern England six months ago.
The computer-generated photos, which have been circulated among Chandigarh police, were doctored by experts to show the possible present appearance of Maninder Pal Singh Kohli, wanted by British police in connection with the rape and murder of 18-year-old Hannah Foster.
Kohli has been at large since abandoning his wife and children to flee to India two days after the girl’s body was found on March 16 this year.
The reward for information leading to his arrest was doubled to Rs 10 lakh after a British daily vowed to match the figure put up by authorities. The Sun pledged Rs 500,000 to anyone offering clues leading to an arrest.
“We hope the substantial reward sum will encourage anyone who might not have come forward to offer help in the investigation so far to do so now,” said detective superintendent Alan Betts, who is leading the investigation in Britain.
“We have met with the director-general of Punjab police and he is very positive about the investigation which his officers are conducting, and is committed to doing everything possible to find Kohli. But the focus of the manhunt now lies in India,” Betts said.
A team of six British detectives recently returned to the UK after holding detailed briefings with the CBI. Additional director-general (crime) K.K. Atri has set up a task force to track down the suspect, who is feared to have fled to Nepal.
Additional director-general Mann Sigh will head the murder squads in Punjab’s Ropar and Patiala districts.
“I get the impression from my last conversation with Mr Atri that Nepal is a possibility. But the suspect could have got a false passport and gone to Australia. The best evidence we have suggests he is still in India.”
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 arrived unexpectedly some nine days earlier, claiming he wished to visit his ailing mother.
The police are thought to be examining records of telephone calls made from Britain to Chandigarh at the time of the suspect’s disappearance and making checks on frequent travellers between India and the UK.
Over 100 police officers in Britain are involved in the investigation, making it one of the biggest ever undertaken by the Hampshire force.
Betts voiced frustration at his lack of direct involvement in the case.
“It is frustrating that I have no power in the Indian inquiries. The ball is in the Punjabi police’s court. India is a totally different set-up, in terms of the techniques and tactics used to catch him, which I have no knowledge of.”
But he said he was confident that progress was being made by Indian authorities.
“I have been very impressed with how professional and detailed our witness statements have been, which the Indian police have been taking on our behalf.”