Murder charges for Irish men in India backpacker death dropped

THE elderly father of an Irishman arrested following the suspicious death of a young English backpacker in India said all charges have been dropped against his son.

Patrick James hopes his 46-year-old son, Frank, will be coming home soon, although he may have to remain in India to appear as a witness at the trial of a fellow Irishman accused of destroying evidence following the death of 25-year-old Anna Bartlett.

A murder charge against 40-year-old Tipperary man, Adrian Breathnach , is also likely to be dropped due to lack of evidence and motive, police in the northern province of Himachal Pradesh said.

Mr Breathnach remains in custody, but Mr James, from Templeogue in south Dublin, has been on bail since just after he was arrested following the death of Ms Bartlett on October 1.

The body of Ms Bartlett, also known as Hamilton, was found at the edge of a Himalayan stream in the popular tourist town of Manali. The Irish pair, along with guesthouse owner, Lot Ram, an Indian, and a missing Nepalese man, were all initially suspected of being involved in the murder of the young woman and the disposal of the body. It is now thought she died as a result of a fall in a guesthouse room she shared with Mr Breathnach.

Patrick James believes his son will not face any charges in connection with the incident, despite Indian police saying he still stands accused of destroying evidence. “There are no charges against Frank,” said Mr James, 80.

Mr James said Frank was not present on the night Ms Bartlett died and was not involved in the disposal of the body. “He was involved in some way in showing a light but he did not handle it (the body),” said Mr James.

Mr Breathnach has testified that, following the discovery of the body, he called his friend to the room where he and his partner were staying. The Tipperary man told police Mr James shone a torch in the dead woman’s eyes but she failed to respond. They then went for a drink but did not inform the police about the tragedy.

Patrick James hopes his son will be able to return to Ireland soon. A frequent visitor to the area, he is teaching English while the Indian authorities decide on his fate. “We were shocked to death when that report came out first because he’s not an aggressive fellow. We were wondering what would happen,” he said.

Investigating police official, Kushal Sharma, said the charge of murder against Mr Breathnach is likely to be lifted. “We have not been able to establish the motive of the murder during interrogation,” he said.

“While the charge of destruction of evidence will remain against the three, and the fourth who is still absconding, the murder charge against the Irishman in police custody is likely to be lifted,” Mr Sharma said. Mr James was never charged with murder.

Mr Sharma added: “The preliminary autopsy report had suggested that the death of Anna Hamilton was caused by external injuries, possibly due to a fall. But the forensic report released recently ruled out death due to an overdose of drugs. Only liquor was found in her bloodstream.”

All four accused fled after the incident. Mr Breathnach and Mr James turned themselves in after contacting the Irish Embassy in New Delhi.

The 25-year-old Englishwoman was released from prison in Dubai in June after serving a number of years for smuggling drugs to the Gulf State.

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