The parents of the murdered British teenager Hannah Foster want Indian detectives to investigate claims that their daughter’s killer is posing as a holy man and hiding in a Sikh temple.
Miss Foster, who wanted to become a doctor, was abducted 500 yards from her home in Portswood, Southampton, after a night out with friends on March 14 last year. Her body was found two days later. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.
As Trevor and Hilary Foster appeared at a televised press conference in Delhi yesterday appealing for help in finding her killer, Indian police publically blamed British officers for the failure to track down the prime suspect.
They say Hampshire detectives refused to tell them that Maninder Pal Singh Kholi, who lived about a mile from the student, fled to India shortly after the 17-year-old went missing.
By the time they were informed, Mr Kholi had left his family home in Punjab after allegedly being tipped off by his wife in Southampton that he was a wanted man.
The row between the forces comes as Hampshire detectives travelled with the Fosters to meet local police in Chandigarh, where Mr Kholi was last seen 16 months ago.
Senior detectives also scorned a claim by the Deputy Speaker of the Punjab parliament that Mr Kholi, 35, is being sheltered by a religious sect in northern India. He is said to have grown a long beard and disguised himself as a sadhu, or holy man. Police in Punjab received a tip-off six months ago that he was in a Sikh temple but, on raiding it, they found nothing.
The authorities have offered a £65,000 reward for Mr Kholi’s capture and the Fosters announced a new telephone hotline number.
Mrs Foster last night described the pain of the ordeal of visiting India but said they were determined to raise public awareness that their daughter’s killer was still on the run.
She said: “I’m glad we have come. It was so frustrating just sitting at home knowing Hannah’s killer was out there. We have had an amazing response here. It was beyond our wildest dreams. Everybody wants to help. They all seemed very interested in helping to find Hannah’s killer.
“We just need to have first-hand experience, to meet the Punjab police and the people investigating it and then we can make up our minds about what’s happening out here.
“I feel much better for being here. I absolutely doubted the whole thing. I thought I would be much too tearful and wouldn’t be able to get our message across, or be able to string a sentence together, but actually it’s done us the world of good coming out here.”
During their emotional press conference, Mr Foster repeatedly broke down.
Hampshire police have visited India twice, but their main suspect still cannot be traced.
Mr Foster said: “We know we are not from your country or your culture. Perhaps you are thinking: ‘Why should we help them to find this man?’ I believe the reason is because you, the people of India, have a strong sense of moral decency, and a strong belief in justice, just as we do.
“Every parent in India will feel our anguish at the cruel loss of our loved and loving daughter. Letting Kholi remain free, you may be putting your daughters at risk.”
Mann Singh, the Assistant Inspector-General of Punjab police, said “We have no concrete information about him disguising as a sadhu. He could be hiding anywhere as anyone.”