Suicide – or murder? 'Delhi bus gang-rape leader' Ram Singh is found dead in his cell

Death of Ram Singh delivers another blow to India’s national pride after crime that shocked the world

The authorities in India have admitted to a “major lapse” after the man accused of leading the gang-rape and assault of a young student was found hanging in his jail cell inside a high security jail.

Officials say it appeared he committed suicide but the man’s family claim he may have been murdered.

In a deeply embarrassing development for officials who have promised to deliver justice following a crime that outraged the country, Ram Singh, a bus driver, was found hanging from a grille in his cell at Delhi’s Tihar jail at around 4.45am. He had apparently used threads from his bedding to make a noose.

Officials said an inquiry had been launched to discover whether or not Mr Singh had killed himself and, if so, how his actions were not spotted by jail staff or the three other prisoners sharing his cell.

“There is a major security lapse...Preliminary inquiry suggests he committed suicide. However, we will wait for the enquiry to be completed,” said India’s home minister, Sushilkumar Shinde.

Police have claimed Mr Singh, 33, led the December 16 attack on the physiotherapy student and her male companion, raping and assaulting her with an iron bar before throwing her naked from the bus. Her friend survived the ordeal but the young woman died two weeks later as a result of her injuries. Five adults and a juvenile have been charged over the attack. All have pleaded not guilty.

Mr Singh, along with four other men charged with the gang-rape and murder of the student, was to have today been brought before a fast-track court that is hearing the case against the adults. The court, from which the media has been banned, was to hear evidence from forensic experts.

But shortly before 5am, the alarm was raised in the prison complex’s number three jail. A spokesman for the jail, legal officer Sunil Gupta, said: “This is being inquired into by the judicial magistrate. Only then will we know what happened. He was in a cell with three other accused – accused from a different case. He was not under suicide watch.”

Mr Singh’s lawyer, AK Anand, said he did not believe his client had taken his own life. He told The Independent that just two days ago, Mr Singh had met his five-year-old son in the court building and had appeared content.

“We do not think he committed suicide. He was bold, he was very happy, two days ago when I last saw him,” said Mr Anand. “Why would be commit suicide?....It’s foul play on the part of the jail authorities.”

Meanwhile, the lawyer for two of the other men charged in the assault said he would Mr Singh’s death as the basis for a bail application for his clients. “I will seek bail. They are not safe in Tihar jail,” said AP Singh, who represents Vinay Sharma and Akshay Singh.

The family of Ram Singh called for an independent investigation into the suspect’s death by India’s federal investigation agency. Mr Singh’s father, Mangelal Singh, told the Associated Press that his son had been raped in jail and threatened by guards.

Yet he said he visited his son four days ago and he gave no hint that something was especially wrong. He said his son had injured one of his hands several years ago which would have made it impossible for him to hang himself from the grille, eight feet above the cell floor.  “Somebody has killed him,” he said.

Meanwhile, the family of the physiotherapy student told the AFP they believed the jail authorities at Tihar were guilty of negligence.

“We don’t understand how could the police fail to protect Ram Singh. They knew he was the prime accused in my daughter's case,” said Badri Singh, father of the young woman. “How could they let him choose the way he wanted to die? The police have failed and I wonder what will happen to the case now.”

The woman and a male friend were attacked after boarding a bus driven by Ram Singh as they tried to return home after watching a film. The death of the woman triggered a national debate about attitudes towards women in India.

In a statement taken by police, Ram Singh said 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.

“He made a mistake – he admitted that to us – but even God forgives one mistake,” Kalyani Devi, Ram Singh’s mother, told Agence France-Presse. “He was not even given a chance to repent,” she said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Magento Front End Web Developer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...

Investigo: management accountant

£250 - £300 per day: Investigo: Growing international marketing business requi...

Recruitment Genius: ORM / Online Reputational Consultant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ORM Consultant is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Facilities Manager

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of educat...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore