Briton hurt as robbers kill two in Himalayas

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The Independent Online

A British trekker was recovering in hospital yesterday in the Indian Himalayas after surviving an attack on Friday night that resulted in the deaths of his two Spanish companions.

A British trekker was recovering in hospital yesterday in the Indian Himalayas after surviving an attack on Friday night that resulted in the deaths of his two Spanish companions.

Martin Young, 32, of Hampshire, who works in Delhi as a civil engineer, had been trekking in the remote and spectacular Kullu Valley in Himachal Pradesh state with his fiancée, Maria Angeles Girones, 35, and her 14-year-old son, Cristobal.

The group pitched their tent near the village of Tundaghosh in a mountainous region which is an eight-hour journey on foot from the nearest motor road and 200km from Simla, the state capital.

At about 10 pm on Friday night they were attacked by four people and severely beaten with clubs. Ms Girones and her son died of their wounds. All three victims of the attack were thrown into a 40ft-deep gorge.

Reports as to subsequent events are unclear, but somehow Mr Young, who had suffered an injury to his head, managed to attract attention and was rescued. Yesterday the bodies of Ms Girones and her son had not yet been recovered from the gorge. A doctor flew into the Kullu Valley from Delhi to assess whether Mr Young should be moved to a hospital in the capital.

Anurag Garg, a police superintendent in Kullu, said yesterday that the assailants had stolen 18,000 rupees (about £270), $100 in foreign currency and a camera.

A hunt for the killers was under way yesterday, with the police checking exit points from the vicinity of the crime in the hope of trapping them.

The Kullu Valley is one of the most popular trekking locations in the Indian Himalayas, receiving about 20,000 foreign visitors a year.

Since the unrest in the better known trekking destination of Kashmir began 10 years ago, the Kullu Valley region has boomed, with domestic tourists and honeymooners pouring in to enjoy the mild weather and mountain scenery.

But Kullu has a more sinister reputation as a place where foreigners have been known to vanish without explanation. A police report quoted in a Delhi weekly magazine this month said that 14 foreigners disappeared without trace between 1992 and 1997, and 48 others have died while visiting the area since 1991 from a variety of causes ranging from drowning to drugs overdoses. Earlier this month a German tourist was killed and his partner injured in the nearby Manikaran valley.

The magazine, Outlook, also claims that foreigners have become involved in cultivating hashish in the valley, with the co-operation of some local people. Despite the severe jail sentences drug offences attract in India, hashish is as openly available in parts of the old town of Manali in the Kullu Valley as in any Amsterdam coffee shop.

In this case, however, police believe the murderers' motive was simple robbery. In Simla, the director general of police, AK Puri, told reporters that the three trekkers who were attacked had had no local porter or guide, even though the police strongly warn foreigners against travelling through the area without native protection.

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