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
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'