Bus driver's confession reveals grim calculation behind killing

Lawyer dismisses statement as murdered student's mother breaks silence to demand death penalty

Delhi

The bus driver accused in the gang rape and murder of an Indian student allegedly told police that having repeatedly assaulted her, he tried to kill the young woman and her companion so they would be unable to identify their attackers. Later, they cleaned the bus and burned the victims' clothes in an attempt to destroy the evidence.

In a frequently graphic statement recorded by investigators and seen by The Independent, Ram Singh said that on 16 December he and his colleagues had embarked on a joy ride in Delhi with the intention of kidnapping a woman, raping her and having a "lot of fun".

After luring the 23-year-old physiotherapy student aboard their bus as she was making her way home from the cinema and assaulting her and beating her companion, Mr Singh began to think of the consequences. "I said that if the girl survived, she would recognise us later. So, with the intention of killing her, I..." he said, going on to describe how he tried to kill the young woman. "The girl fainted and was motionless. So I said, 'She's dead.' "

The attack on the young student, who died two weeks later in hospital in Singapore, has triggered international outrage and set in motion an unprecedented debate within India about the country's attitude towards women and the need to do more to ensure their safety. A commission, made up of three senior judges, is compiling a series of recommendations for the government and listening to suggestions from NGOs and members of the public.

Five men arrested and charged by police with the rape and murder are due to reappear in court today. A juvenile, said to be aged 17, has also been detained and is due to be dealt with by a separate tribunal. The adults' case will be heard by a fast-track court.

In her first interview, the murdered student's mother repeated the family's wish that if he is convicted, the juvenile should also face the death penalty, rather than imprisonment, as set out under Indian law. "We saw what they did to her. She told us everything," the young woman's brother added, in an interview with The Times of India that coincided with the completion of 13 days of formal mourning that were followed according to Hindu ritual.

In his statement to police, Mr Singh said that when they thought the young woman and her friend were dead, they stripped them and threw them from their vehicle, "hoping they will get crushed by the back tyres of the bus".

He said the men returned to the Ravi Das colony in south Delhi, where most of them lived, and set about destroying evidence and dividing up money and a phone they had stolen from the student and another person, a man, whom they had robbed earlier.

"First, we cleaned the bus with the clothes of the boy and the girl, then with water," he said, according to the police statement. "After this, on the night of 16 December, we burned the clothes of the girl and the boy, which we had used to clean the blood and the dirt in the bus, outside the Ravi Das temple where some rickshaw drivers were warming their hands from the cold."

Last night, Mr Singh's lawyer, AK Anand, said the men were not expected to make any plea when they appeared before the court today but that they were seeking the release of various documents. Asked about the statement his client gave to police, he said: "A confession is immaterial as concerns Indian law. No statement made in the presence of police has any value in the eyes of the law."

Previously, another lawyer, Manohar Lal Sharma, who is representing Mr Singh's brother Mukesh, claimed his client and the other accused were tortured while in custody. A spokesman for the Delhi police, Rajan Bhagat, last night refused to comment on the allegation.

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