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Indian couple arrested for killing countryman in Australia


Melbourne : In a new twist to the “horrific” murder of Indian youth Ranjodh Singh, whose partially charred body was found from the city of Griffith Dec 29, Australian police Thursday arrested an Indian couple in the case and said the victim was burnt alive.

Police charged a 23-year-old Indian man and his wife with murder and said they were still searching for a third male accomplice, who was seen in a red 1996 Ford Falcon sedan entering a Car Lovers store in Griffith hours before the body of 25-year-old Ranjodh Singh was found.

The arrested couple was expected to be presented before a court in Sydney Friday.

Earlier, the detective police squad detained the two men at Sydney airport when they were about to board a flight to Nepal a week after the incident. They were released without charge but their passports were seized.

One of the men was arrested Thursday morning from Sans Souci, in Sydney’s south, where he had been working. His 20-year-old wife was arrested during a joint raid by police and Immigration Department officials at a nearby house, The Australian reported.

“We will be saying that Singh was alive when his body was set on fire,” Assistant Police Commissioner Mark Murdoch told reporters in Sydney after the couple’s arrest.

“It will be alleged that the persons involved in this matter were well known to the victim,” he was quoted as saying by the AAP.

Singh, who came to Australia on a contract marriage one year ago, was living in Wagga Wagga town, but had travelled to Griffith for fruit-picking work.

Murdoch said the husband, wife and Singh were involved in the same harvesting business. However, he refused to confirm whether a dispute over money was the motive behind the killing.

On the night of his death, Singh had attended a party with fellow Indian fruit pickers who were leasing an apartment owned by Griffith councillor Peter Fussell. The apartment was later searched by Forensic Services Group officers, the official said and described the murder as “horrific”.

His face was so badly burned during the attack that police had to release photographs of Singh’s ring, earring and steel wristlet in a bid to identify him.

Detectives were looking for some witness who caught a CountryLink bus that departed Griffith for Wagga Wagga at 9.25 a.m. on December 29, just hours after Singh’s body was discovered, the paper said.

The post-mortem examination revealed that Singh’s throat had been slashed and that he had been stabbed a number of times before being bound and set alight.

Murdoch said, “The motive for this horrific crime is not race-related”.