The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Murder of love at first sight
- Family of Kohli’s Kalimpong wife scrambles to her protection

Kalimpong, July 16: From “love at first sight” to “total despair”. Shattered by the disclosure that her husband is the prime suspect in the rape and murder of Hannah Foster, 32-year-old Bharati Das, hidden away from the public eye in “some corner” of Kalimpong, has turned quiet and sullen, refusing to speak even to her parents.

Her family is as bewildered and saddened by the turn of events. The man whom till a few days ago they knew as social worker and “doctor from England” Mike Davis, has turned out to be killer Maninderpal Singh Kohli, who was remanded in judicial custody for 14 days by the Kalimpong subdivisional judicial magistrate. Wandering around along Kalimpong’s Main Road this morning, Bharati’s father Oath Bahadur Das, the 68-year-old secretary of the Kalimpong unit of the Red Cross Society, doesn’t quite know what to make of the situation.

“I am sad and totally uncertain about the turn our lives will take now,” Das said. “I am scared about the safety of my daughter and I want to prove to the world that she did what she did in total innocence.”

Das said that for Bharati, it was “love at first sight”. “The first time when we met Kohli, it was in March this year when we were conducting a medical camp,” said Das. “Bharati was present too, as she often was when we organised camps. Kohli had come along with a common friend who introduced him to us, saying that he was a doctor from England and wanted to volunteer for the work we were doing.”

There was no reason to decline, Das said, as Kohli seemed to be a “nice sort” and “quite charming”. Bharati, too, liked what she saw and “a kind of chemistry developed between them”. Initially, the interaction between Bharati and Kohli remained confined to the medical camps, but rapidly Bharati “seemed to be drawing closer to Kohli”, Das said.

“She was totally enamoured of him and there was little that we could do to stop her,” Das said.

“Finally, on June 17, Kohli and Bharati eloped and rented a house in Murgi Hatta (in Kalimpong). My innocent girl was totally unaware of the identity of the person lurking behind the façade of Mike Davis.”

“Though we were unhappy that they had eloped, we accepted their marriage after Kohli threw a wedding reception and made public their marriage,” Das said. “After that things seemed to be moving along fine till July 13, when Kohli’s pictures appeared in the media and Kohli and Bharati disappeared. My daughter had not seen the photographs, so she did not find anything amiss when Kohli told her that they would be leaving on a holiday for a few days. Within two days, Kohli had been caught.”

“Though I feel terrible about what has happened to our lives, I am happy that the Fosters have finally found the justice they were looking for,” said Das. “If they come to Kalimpong, I would like to tell them that we had no hand in protecting their daughter’s killer; if we accepted Kohli as one of our own, it was totally out of ignorance of the reality.”

A short distance away, on Upper Cart Road, at the Das residence, Bharati’s sister Mamata said she, too, was not aware that Mike Davis was Maninderpal Singh Kohli even a full 24 hours after his photographs were flashed in the media.

“Kohli must have been one of the first to see his photos in the newspaper, which is why he promptly disappeared with my sister,” Mamata said. “We saw the papers only on the day he was caught.”

Mamata said that the family never had a hint that Kohli was a rapist and a killer. “He treated my sister very well, she was very happy with him and then suddenly the realisation that he was a cold-blooded killer. It is tough for us, but my sister may never get over this.”

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