Three arrested over 'random murder' of Indian student in Salford

Anuj Bidve, an engineering graduate, planned to return to India to 'serve his nation'

Two teenagers were being questioned by police in Manchester last night over the seemingly random murder of an Indian postgraduate student who was shot in the head at point-blank range on Boxing Day.

A man was being held on suspicion of murder last night. A 17-year-old, who was arrested earlier in the day, and a 16-year-old boy arrested yesterday afternoon, were also being held in custody on suspicion of murder.

Although police have not ruled out either a racially-motivated killing or a murder that was part of a gang "initiation test", Chief Superintendent Kevin Mulligan, the officer leading the investigation , said: "The answers as to who committed this awful murder lie in the community."

The killing of Anuj Bidve, 23, who had been in Britain since September after completing an engineering degree at Pune University in India, has shocked the Indian student community at Lancaster University. Indian students planning to travel to British universities also reacted with horror. Mr Bidve's sister, Maharashtra, speaking in Pune on behalf of the family, said they had "lost faith in everything."

Mr Bidve was with a group of nine male and female Indian students from Lancaster visiting Manchester over the Christmas break. They were walking towards Manchester city centre from their hotel in Salford. Early police reports say that at about 1.30am they were approached by two men walking on the other side of the road. One of the men, described as heavy set, crossed the road to meet them.

A friend of Mr Bidve, Vikrant Gupta, said the man asked Anuj a question. A handgun is then said to have been pulled and fired.

The Indian student fell to the ground and died in hospital a short time later.

The police would not comment on what words were used by the gunman, but were convinced the attack was random, had no motive, and that nothing had been said to provoke the killer. An academic who has researched gang culture, who spoke to The Independent on the condition he would not be named, said that although the murder bore all the hallmarks of a gang initiation, the police should not rule out a "territorial killing that could also be described as racially-motivated, and where this young man simply found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time."

After the shooting, two men were seen fleeing into the nearby Ordsall housing estate. Yesterday several homes in the area were visited by police, who are also studying CCTV footage.

The students who were with Mr Bidve when he was killed were being looked after by counselling and support staff. They were said to be "deeply upset and disturbed" by what had happened.

A tribute page on Facebook, set up by friends of Mr Bidve, repeated the sentiment that they could not believe his life had been taken for "no reason". Niraj Dave said he lived near Salford and regarded it as "a dangerous place".

The Indian community at Lancaster University are planning a candlelit march on 2 January between 10am and 1pm through the area where Mr Bidve was shot. Relatives in India are also planning a similar tribute.

Speaking from Pune yesterday, Mr Bidve's brother-in-law, Rakesh Sonawane, said the engineering graduate had been "very happy and it had been his dream to go the UK. Unfortunately his dream did not last longer than three months." He said that after his time at Lancaster, Mr Bidve planned to go back to India to "serve his nation".

The murder will do little to reassure parts of the Ordsall community, which was once described as the "Barbary Coast" of Britain's housing developments, about the truth of claims that the estate is safer, does not suffer from a racial divide, and that crime rates are declining.

Ch Supt Mulligan said the murder would generate a "huge amount of concern" in the community. He promised Mr Bidve's family and the community that a major investigation would leave no stone unturned.

Man stabbed to death at party

A man died yesterday after being stabbed at a party in the early hours of Christmas Day. John Lee Barrett, 31, from Harpurhey, Manchester, was knifed during a private function at Sinclair's Bar, a nightclub in Rochdale.

Police were called to the venue, on Drake Street, at about 2.40am on Sunday following reports of a disturbance. The club's security staff had already thrown out a number of people who were inside.

Mr Barrett was found with stab wounds and was taken to hospital, where he died yesterday.

A post-mortem examination is due to take place and police are appealing to anyone with information to come forward. Chief Superintendent John O'Hare said some of those ejected from the venue may have vital information about the incident.

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