Murder claim as gang-rape accused found dead in cell

The main accused in the fatal gang rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi last year was found dead in his prison cell yesterday, prompting fury from the victim’s family and accusations of murder.

Officials at maximum-security Tihar Jail in the Indian capital said bus driver Ram Singh, 34, took his life in his cell.

However, Singh’s parents said their son had been assaulted in prison and had told them about threats to his life, while his lawyer said the death should be treated as murder.

Singh was one of six people on trial over the gang rape on Dec 16 which appalled India and brought simmering anger about endemic sex crime to the boil.

The prison’s law officer, Sunil Gupta, said Singh was found dead shortly before dawn.

India’s home minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, called the incident “a major lapse” by the prison service and said security would be boosted for four other suspects in Tihar.

“It is a suicide, the preliminary reports show... but we are awaiting the enquiry report to come,” said Shinde.

The family of the victim, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student who was on her way home with a male friend when she was attacked, denounced the jail authorities and said Singh had escaped justice.

They have called for all the suspects to be hanged, a punishment used in India for the rarest of crimes.

“We don’t understand how could the police fail to protect Ram Singh,” said the student’s father, who cannot be named. “They knew he was the prime accused.”

The case, which ignited street protests in December, has led to a toughening of India’s rape laws, as well as deep introspection on social attitudes to women and the rise in sex crimes.

All five adult suspects, including Singh, pleaded not guilty to charges including rape, murder, and kidnapping.

A 17-year-old suspect is being tried in a juvenile court, where he faces a maximum three years imprisonment.

Singh’s father, Mange Lal Singh, admitted that his son had talked of his guilt over the crime.

“My son told me that he was ashamed by what had happened on 16 Dec,” he said.

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