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Mystery Surrounds Briton's Death in India
Family of murder victim Stephen Bennett disagree with police conclusion
Rajen Nair (rajennair)     Print Article 
Published 2007-01-10 16:45 (KST)   
The death of British tourist Stephen Bennett is getting murkier with lots of twists, turns, and contradictions thrown in as reported in the U.K. and Indian press.

Bennett's decomposed body was found hanging from a mango tree in a remote Roha village on Dec. 11. The police have arrested four Roha villagers suspected of lynching the victim, two more are being sought. The circumstances leading to Bennett's death are most baffling and mysterious.

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The police, villagers, and Bennett's parents, all have different versions of what did or didn't contribute to his death. According to the police version, he was last seen in Roha. They are sticking to the story initially handed out by Nirmala Menes, the wife of one of the accused. According to press reports she has since recanted the story.

In this version of the story Bennett had followed Nirmala to her hut in the middle of the night after she had gone out to attend nature's call. The frightened Nirmala ran to the safety of her hut and bolted the door from inside. The persistent knocking on the door from outside by Bennett had alerted her husband and brother-in-law.

Nirmala is then said to have told them that the person outside their hut was trailing her in his attempt to molest or rape her. On hearing this, the husband and brother-in-law, by now full of fury, armed themselves with sticks and chopper. No sooner had they opened the door than the victim was rained on with repeated blows. Others from the village too joined them.

Bennett was then allegedly brutally lynched to death by the villagers. Later they dragged the body some distance and hanged him with a sari on a mango tree to camouflage it as suicide.

The murder case of Bennett has been widely reported in the U.K.'s newspapers. Bennett's parents are still in the U.K. and are planning to fly down to India to pursue the case of their son's death.

Interestingly, the family of the victim have a version of the story that differs from that of Indian local police. They say that Stephen was abducted and murdered. They are sceptical and doubt the local police version that Stephen was lynched by the Roha villagers.

It has been alleged that in order to mislead the case, the lawyer of one of the absconding accused falsely reported to a newspaper that the victim's mother and sister had visited the village to meet the villagers to get to the bottom of the truth. However, the Mail on Sunday has confirmed that they were still in the U.K. and this story was not true.

Bennett took a plane from the U.K. to Goa and arrived on Dec. 3. During his stay in Goa, he stayed in three hotels. According to British newspaper the Daily Mail Bennett telephoned his parents saying that he feared for his life as he was being followed by two persons, whom he had befriended on Baga beach in Goa.

He said that they were insisting on becoming his traveling companion as he was intending to make a trip to Mumbai. On his second call home, he sounded more frightened and didn't want to travel back to his hotel, as he had managed to escape from the men.

On Dec. 7 he boarded Mandovi Express at Madgaon, Goa to travel to Mumbai. His last call to his family was on Dec. 8 when he left a message on their answering machine.

Bennett left the train at Roha station around 6.30 p.m. when the train made a brief halt. Four days later his body was found in Malasai village, 8 kilometers from Roha, hanging from a tree.

The police are baffled as to what prompted Bennett to cut short his visit to Mumbai and to get down midway through his journey at Roha station. He had left his haversack behind in the train. If he had missed boarding the train, then why didn't he make any attempt to get into the next available train? What made him walk down to the village? These are the questions the police are investigating to unravel the mystery behind his death.

Despite the several versions as reported in the press, the Indian police is sticking to its version, claiming that it is an open and shut case of him getting lynched by the villagers. Despite this there are a lot of questions about his unexpected landing at the village and the information provided by his family.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Rajen Nair

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