Kohli found guilty of raping, murdering Hannah Foster (Lead)

November 25th, 2008 - 9:38 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Nov 25 (IANS) Ex-van driver Maninder Pal Singh Kohli was Tuesday found guilty of the rape and murder of 17-year-old student Hannah Foster. The conviction by a British court came more then five years after he ran away to India in a bid to escape police and live out a new life.The conviction by the jury at Winchester Crown Court rang the curtain down on a case that saw the victim’s parents take their campaign to track down Kohli all the way to India, before he was spotted by residents of Kalimpong town, living a new life in the mountains of West Bengal.

The 41-year-old father of two fled Britain after Foster’s murder March 14, 2003, in the city of Southampton. Her body was found two days later, strangled and lying in a bramble-filled ditch by the side of a road, a short walking distance from her home.

Hannah, who had spent the evening out with her parents, had been kidnapped while she was walking back home. The secondary school student called emergency services, hoping an operator would hear what was happening, but the call was terminated when she did not speak.

Two days after the body was found, Kohli panicked, borrowed some money from his father-in-law and caught a flight for India, heading for Chandigarh. Once a turban-wearing Sikh, he shaved off his beard, changed his name and eventually created a new life for himself in hills of Kalimpong.

But in Britain, his semen was recovered from Hannah’s body and a nationwide television appeal alerted a colleague, who rang police.

Next year, Hannah’s parents Hillary and Trevor Foster, along with Hampshire police, visited India and led a media campaign, announcing a 70,000 pounds award. Within days, Kohli - living under the name of Mike Davies - was spotted out. He was extradited to Britain in July 2007.

Kohli confessed his crimes in India, but during the six-week trial in Britain, he portrayed himself as the victim rather than the perpetrator of crime, claiming he had been kidnapped, blindfolded and forced to have sex with a woman whom he later recognised to be Hannah.

He said the plot was carried out by his colleague James Dennis - the same man who had alerted the police about him in 2003 - to whom Kohli owed 16,000 pounds and with whose wife the sandwich delivery-man claimed to have had a secret affair.

When Dennis demanded the money back, Kohli said he threatened to publicise the alleged affair, which prompted the act of revenge.

But both Dennis and his wife denied the affair, and the prosecution accused Kohli of spinning out “an utterly fantastical story‚Ķ. a pack of lies from start to finish”.

“You have had five and a half years to think of a story and you have learnt it line by line,” Kohli was told during the trial.

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