Indian police hold suspect in hunt for killer of girl, 17

The prime suspect in the hunt for the killer of Hannah Foster in Southampton last year was arrested by police in India yesterday after local people spotted a newspaper report of an appeal by her parents.

Maninder Pal Singh Kohli was caught in the foothills of the Himalayas as he made a break for the border, unnerved by publicity about the case.

The arrest vindicated the Trevor and Hilary Foster's decision to fly to the subcontinent this week to publicise the hunt for their daughter's killer.

Mr Kohli fled from Southhampton four days after Hannah, 17, disappeared from a street 500 yards from her home in March 2003 after a night out with her friends. She was found two days later, raped and strangled.

British police named Mr Kohli, who worked in a sandwich factory near Southampton, as the main suspect. But until yesterday, the last sighting of him was visiting his family in Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab state, around 18 March last year.

Grisly murders are not unusual in India, and the Foster inquiry was going nowhere until her parents made emotional appeals in a series of press conferences in the country.

Mr Kohli's photograph was shown on television, and wanted notices were splashed across the front pages of national newspapers, with details of a £60,000 reward, and a freephone hotline.

Yesterday, Indian police said Mr Kohli had been living in the Himalayas near Darjeeling under an assumed name, and had married a local woman.

Darjeeling police said the arrested man had confirmed that he was Mr Kohli, and admitted that he had thrown Hannah's body out of his car in Southampton.

"But he has not admitted to the crime and he has not explained how the body got into the car," Rajiv Mishra, the Darjeeling police chief, told a press conference.

Hampshire Police said they were waiting for the arrested man's identity to be confirmed, after which extradition proceedings would start.

Police in the Indian state of West Bengal said they had received a tip-off from locals who recognised Mr Kohli after his photo appeared on the front page of several newspapers.

The reward of 5 million rupees (£60,000), offered for information on Mr Kohli's whereabouts in India, is a huge sum for most Indians. In the poor communities around Darjeeling, it is enough for most people to retire and live off for the rest of their lives.

It appears Mr Kohli realised he was in trouble the moment he saw his picture in the newspapers. When police arrived at the house in which he was living, he had already fled.

"It is too early to say who this man is. We are working to establish that as quickly as possible, but we are cautiously optimistic," said Detective Superintendent Alan Bates, who led the hunt for Hannah's killer in Britain, and is in India with her parents.

Mr and Mrs Foster and Hampshire Police officers were searching for information on Mr Kohli in Punjab, where his family is from, when the news broke that he had been arrested more than 1,000 miles east in the Himalayas.

Police were assuming that Mr Kohli, a Sikh, was most likely to hide in the Sikhs' spiritual homeland of Punjab, where he could be supported by a close-knit network of family ties. Sikhs are few and far between in the Darjeeling area, where he appears to have been finally run to ground, and his presence would have been much more noticeable. Mr Kohli appears to have been living in Kalimpong, a poor farming community in the foothills under the shadow of Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world.

Mrs Foster said: "We are delighted with the news of this arrest. During the last five days, we have been up and down on an emotional rollercoaster. We are just keeping our fingers crossed that the man arrested is the right man."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
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

Administrative Assistant

£60 - £75 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Administrative Assitant Hertford...

Web Application Support Manager

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reigate...

** Secondary History Teacher Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £165 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

** Secondary Geography Teacher Required In Liverpool **

£120 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments