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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent