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'Mystery man' in Khunti priest death

- Rourkela sends cop team to Hatia for probe

Members of GEL church and local residents join the funeral procession of Abraham Biswas Surin in Khunti on Saturday. Telegraph picture

Ranchi/Rourkela, May 7: A 64-year-old priest of Khunti, found dead with his throat slashed at Rourkela station yesterday, was laid to rest in his hometown today by officials of Gossner Evangelical Lutheran (GEL) Church in the presence of hundreds of his followers.

"Priest Abraham Biswas Surin might have been murdered as per circumstantial evidence. We are shocked. We demand a probe into the mysterious death of the priest. We have asked our counterparts at the South West Diocese of the GEL Church at Rajgangpur to take up the matter with Odisha police and government. Our prayers are with the family of the deceased," Eliazer Topno, general secretary, GEL Church, told The Telegraph in Ranchi, moments before leaving for Khunti.

According to church sources, Surin left his home in Khunti on May 5, apparently to attend a church meeting in Ranchi.

But yesterday, his body was found lying in a drain near Rahmatnagar under the Rourkela station railway over-bridge. It bore multiple injury marks, including a deep gash on the throat. Police claimed to have found the murder weapon, a chopper with a long handle, from the spot.

GRP men at Rourkela were able to recover all his personal belongings like a ring, watch, wallet and mobile phone, which they used to contact GEL Church officials in Ranchi and later his family members in Khunti. Since all his belongings were with him, the police are ruling out robbery as a motive.

Surin's body reached Khunti early this morning from Rourkela where a post-mortem had been conducted.

Topno said the entire episode was mysterious. "Our enquiries reveal there was no meeting in Ranchi on May 5. I can't understand why he left his Khunti home telling his family that he had a meeting in Ranchi. Also, why Rourkela, 215km away from Ranchi?" he said, adding that the priest was in the service of humanity.

"We cannot understand how such a god like person could have been murdered," Topno wondered.

Sources in Odisha revealed Surin was last seen at 10pm on May 5 at Rourkela railway station. He reached there by train from Hatia. CCTV footage at the station shows him in the company of an unidentified person with whom he is seen talking. His family members, who reached Rourkela late yesterday and took possession of the body, failed to identify the person.

A sniffer dog, deployed by the police, stopped near Gandhi Road, a few kilometres from the railway station, leading investigators to believe that the killer may have used a motorbike or car to escape from there.

Jamaes Samad of IIC GRP, Rourkela, said that the person seen in the CCTV footage accompanying Surin at the station was perhaps the same person who had travelled with him from Hatia.

"We sent a team to Hatia today for further investigations. His family members also failed to identify the person in the CCTV footage. That has added to the intrigue," he said, adding that they were now looking at his call records. Apparently, Surin called his family yesterday around 7pm to tell them he wasn't returning that night. But, he did not tell them about his whereabouts.


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