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October 17, 2001
2031 IST

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Sixth witness turns hostile in Jessica case

T L Garg in New Delhi

A sixth prosecution witness turned hostile in the Jessica Lal murder case on Wednesday, retracting from a statement he had made to the police about the events on the night the ramp model was shot.

Fashion designer Rouble Dunglay had told the police that he had seen socialite Bina Ramani, the owner of the illegal bar where Lal was shot, asking people to stop a man who had allegedly fired the fatal shots.

On Wednesday, he told additional sessions judge R L Chugh, who is conducting the trial in the case, that he had not actually seen Ramani, but had heard a voice saying that Lal had been shot.

Lal was allegedly shot by Manu Sharma, son of a former minister, on April 29 1999 after she refused to serve him a drink at the Tamarind Court. Lal was working as a celebrity barmaid.

He admitted that he had attended a party at the bar on the night Lal was shot and had also attempted to help her after the shooting.

"I felt that she was not able to breathe and some liquid had collected in her throat," Dunglay said.

"After wiping the sweat from her face, I noticed a large bump on the left of her forehead. It was a bump caused by the hitting of a bullet," he said.

"I tried to talk to her presuming that she might react. She was breathing very heavily but could not talk," he said.

However, after Dunglay deposed that 'I did not see Bina Ramani but heard a voice saying that somebody had shot Jessica', public prosecutor S K Saxena sought the court's permission to cross-examine him.

Dunglay then admitted, "It was correct that I had told the police that I saw Bina Ramani going after a boy (after the shooting). It is correct that I had told the police that Bina Ramani was saying: 'Stop that man.'"

Cross-examined by counsel for Sharma, R K Naseem, Dunglay admitted that he had attended the cremation of Jessica Lal.

"Jessica Lal was cremated and her ashes were thereafter buried. I visited her parents and her family to pay my condolences," he said.

The prosecution also examined Bina Ramani's husband George Mailhot, a Canadian artist.

He said that among the prominent guests who had attended the party on the night of the shooting were Hollywood star Steven Segal.

"After the incident, I did prepare a list of guests who were invited in that party at the instance of the police. The list runs into two pages," Mailhot said.

Mailhot's cross-examination will continue on Thursday.

There are nine accused in the case. All of them except Sharma are out on bail.

There are over 100 prosecution witnesses in the case.

Indo-Asian News Service

Complete coverage of the Jessica Lal murder case

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