'I am a student, I'm not a killer': One of four men accused of a brutal gang-rape and murder that shocked India protests his innocence

The furore over the young woman’s death has subsided. Now questions are being asked

Vinay Sharma’s left arm was in a sling, and blood seeped from a bandage wrapped around his head.

“It happened when I went for lunch,” he told The Independent this week. “Somebody attacked me from behind with a blade... another prisoner. It’s very important news for you.”

The slightly-built, one-time gym instructor is one of four men who were sentenced to death in September after being convicted of the brutal gang-rape and murder of a Delhi student. Yet he continues to protest his innocence.

It has been almost a year since the attack on the 23-year-old physiotherapy student and her male friend, Awindra Pandey, who was powerless to help her as she was set upon when they boarded a private bus after an evening at the cinema watching Life of Pi.

She was brutally gang-raped and tortured with a metal bar for hours before being dumped almost naked on the road side. Mr Pandey recovered from his injuries, but the young woman died two weeks later in a hospital in Singapore, where she had been sent for specialist emergency treatment.

Details of the savage attack sent shockwaves around the world, and prompted mass protests in favour of expanding rights and protection for women. Within days, police said they had arrested four of the six suspects in the case, based on evidence from closed-circuit surveillance cameras. There was widespread approval in India when the men were sentenced to be hanged.

Large parts of the trial – which took place in a courtroom just yards from the shopping centre where the victims had watched the film that night – had been closed to the media, particularly the foreign press. Whenever the defendants were rushed into the court building, their heads were covered with scarves.

Earlier this week, however, as their lawyers began appealing against their conviction, the prisoners were brought to appear before the court with just a fraction of the security that had been present at their trial.

On this occasion they were not even handcuffed to the police officers – simply made to hold hands. Whereas the conclusion of their trial had attracted a huge media scrum, this week, there were just a couple of reporters present.

What was to be learned from looking at these men? Pawan Gupta, a fruit seller, was dressed in a blue shirt; Akshay Kumar Singh, who had cleaned buses, was wearing an orange checked shirt; Mukesh Singh’s face was obscured by a beard and he wore a baseball cap, and Sharma, seated one row in front of his co-defendants, held up his injuries to show to the court.

Though convicted of a notorious crime, the men themselves appeared unremarkable, unworthy of a second glance if you saw them sitting on a train, or indeed, on a bus. Mukesh Singh’s parents had come to court to see him. They stood confused, watching from the sidelines, before being led out of the court room. 

With the exception of Sharma, the other men seemed largely uninterested with what was happening. “Two officers beat me,” he said, addressing his comments to the judge, Ms Reva Khetrapal.

Soon the men were led away and AP Singh, a lawyer, started his defence. He represented Sharma and Akshay Kumar Singh, but he said the evidence he intended to bring would also provide an alibi for Gupta. At the time of the trial, AP Singh said the two men were not present on the bus and played no part in the attack. “They were expecting to be found guilty even though they are not,” he said. According to the Press Trust of India, Gupta, said in December last year: “I accept I am guilty, I should be hanged.”

The prosecution had said earlier that the death penalty was necessary in this case to send a message to Indian women that they were safe.

Members of the Karnataka State Youth Congress, some of them wearing masks of the four convicted rapists, enact a mock execution (Getty) Members of the Karnataka State Youth Congress, some of them wearing masks of the four convicted rapists, enact a mock execution (Getty)

VK Anand, the lawyer for Mukesh Singh, will begin his arguments later this week. At the time of the trial, he said his client had been driving the bus but that he had not been involved in the attack itself. “His role was very limited,” claimed the lawyer. “He had a certain role, a very limited role in the case.”

The defence arguments continued inside. Outside, seated on a bench, awaiting their ride back to Delhi’s Tihar jail, were the four convicted men with their police escorts. It was here that Sharma made a series of dramatic outbursts in reasonable, if imperfect, English.

“I feel very guilty. But I was not involved [in the attack]. I was at a musical event,” he told The Independent, echoing a line his lawyer had told the judge.

“I feel very guilty but I will show you, this is the Indian government. There was media pressure. I will tell you my true story: I am a student, I’m not a killer.”

The young woman’s entire future lay before her as she and her friend boarded that off-duty bus on their way home from the cinema. If he had not raped and assaulted the young woman, then who had?

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I was not aboard the bus.”

One of the six males detained after the 16 December 2012 attack was 17 years old at the time, and was tried as a juvenile. Another, Ram Singh, brother of fellow defendant Mukesh Singh, was found hanging in his prison cell earlier this year.

Sharma claimed he had also been 17 years old, and was now 18. The court says he is 20 years old. He also said he had been offered money for his story from an unidentified British filmmaker and an Indian television news channel, which he did name. The managing editor of the channel adamantly denied that such an offer had been made.

After a few minutes, the police decided the impromptu interview had gone on long enough.

“I was not involved, this is the first time I have been involved with the police,” Sharma insisted, as he was called away by a senior officer. “How is it possible for me to kill that girl?”

Today, India’s Supreme Court accused the Delhi High Court of “rushing” the appeals process, and said it should not continue until the convicts had been given a Hindi translation of the judgment, and final evidence presented during the trial earlier this year.

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

History Teacher

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

** Female PE Teacher Urgently Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

** Cover Supervisors Urgently Required In Knowsley **

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

Java developer - (Intershop Enfinity)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Java Developer...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album