Police apologise to victim's father after shooting

 

A police chief apologised today after it emerged that the father of a student blasted to death on Boxing Day found out about his son's murder on Facebook.

Anuj Bidve, 23, was shot in the head at point-blank range as he walked with friends near their hotel in the inner-city Ordsall district of Salford in the early hours of December 26.

The murder of the Indian student is being treated by detectives at Greater Manchester Police (GMP) as a hate crime which may have been racially motivated.

Assistant Chief Constable Dawn Copley, who has overall command for the investigation, confirmed that Subhash Bidve, the victim's father, read a post on the social networking site before officers were able to get in touch to deliver the news first.

She said: "That is not the way anyone should have to find out something so devastating and we completely understand how upset the family are.

"Social networking is instantaneous and we have no control over when and what people post on such sites, but no one should hear such tragic news in this way."

Police said a 16-year-old boy and two 17-year-old boys arrested over the murder have been released on bail pending further inquiries.

Two men, aged 19 and 20, remain in custody.

Explaining how Mr Bidve came to find out about his son's death, Ms Copley said: "A family liaison officer was quickly put in place after Anuj's murder who made exhaustive inquiries to try and inform the family and deliver the awful news personally.

"Unfortunately, as the officer was attempting to contact the family through the right channels, a post was put on Facebook.

"Since then, we have had two family liaison officers in regular contact with Anuj's immediate family and those who speak on his behalf to keep them updated about every step of the progress of the investigation.

"Greater Manchester Police is also working very hard to bring the family over to Manchester as soon as possible.

"For reasons beyond the family's control, it is unlikely they will be able to do so until early next week so the force is putting plans in place to send officers to India to offer support."

She extended her sympathies to the family, adding: "This is a despicable and senseless murder that has shocked everyone and the Bidve family are going through something no family should ever have to endure.

"I want to reassure the family that staff across the whole of Greater Manchester Police are working on this investigation night and day to bring those responsible for Anuj's murder to justice."

Earlier, Mr Bidve's father told BBC Radio 5 Live: "Nobody official from the UK Government or consulate or the Indian government called us and told us about this.

"I am really surprised because they confiscated his phone and must have known his father's or mother's number.

"They could have called us and told us what had happened to him."

He called for the authorities in the UK to speed up the process of returning his son's body to his home town of Pune in India.

"That is my only concern. We do not have a specific date or timeframe when it can be done and do not understand it. We find it difficult and it is not accepted.

"In Pune and other places it is assumed that this could be the racism or a hate crime.

"I do not know, my family do not know and the reasons for his killing we do not know."

Chief Superintendent Kevin Mulligan said the murder weapon, believed to be a small handgun, has not been found and appealed for anyone with information about it to come forward.

"As I said from the start, the solution to this, and the way we can solve this murder, this awful murder, is for members of the community to come forward with information.

"They can do that anonymously, but the answer to this issue lies with the community."

He added: "There will be no stone unturned in trying to find those responsible for this awful crime."

Forensic and ballistics investigations are being carried out and police are trawling through CCTV along with house-to-house inquiries.

According to a Facebook page set up in Mr Bidve's memory, he "was killed for not answering a simple question - 'What's the time?"'.

But Mr Mulligan would not disclose what was said between the killer and his victim.

He added: "At the moment all we can say was there was a short conversation. There's no reason to suggest from that conversation that the crime is racially motivated.

"What we are saying is we do not know whether it's racially motivated or not. But by definition we need to treat any incident of this kind where there is a perception that race is involved or hate is involved and categorise it as a hate incident."

Mr Bidve was in a group of nine male and female Indian students visiting Manchester for a short break over the Christmas holidays.

The students, who had not been drinking, were walking through Ordsall from their hotel towards the city centre when they became aware of two men on the other side of the street.

The gunman, a white male in his 20s who was wearing a grey top, walked across the road and engaged the victim in a short conversation before producing the gun and shooting the student at close range to the side of the head.

The killer ran back across the street before the pair fled on foot towards Asgard Drive and the Ordsall housing estate.

Armed response units were sent to the scene at around 1.35am. Mr Bidve died in hospital a short time later.

He was studying for a micro-electronics postgraduate qualification at Lancaster University, and was described by tutors as "an outstanding applicant at the very beginning of a promising career".

Speaking from Mr Bidve's home town this week, Rakesh Sonawane, 30, who is married to the student's sister Nehal, said the devastated family had "lost faith in everything".

Mr Bidve, who was described as "clever and sporty", arrived in the UK in September after completing an electronics degree at Pune University.

PA

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