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SC admits appeal of Staines murder convict
September 18, 2007 02:14 IST
The Supreme Court on Monday admitted the appeal of Mahendra Hembrom, challenging the Orissa high court verdict sentencing him to life imprisonment in the murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two minor sons.
Hembrom along with the main accused Ravinder Kumar Pal alias Dara Singh, was found guilty of burning to death Staines and his minor sons, Philip and Timothy, outside a church at Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district of Orissa on January 22, 1999.
A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhan and V S Sirpurkar tagged his petition along with that of Dara Singh which was admitted by the apex court earlier.
The defence counsel, Sibo Shankar Mishra, contended that Hembrom's conviction by the trial court was merely upheld by the high court on the basis of the presumption of his presence at the site of the incident.
Mishra claimed that the high court and trial court had erroneously considered Hembrom's confessional statement about his involvement in the crime.
The confessional statement before the trial court, in which he had said that he killed Graham Staines, hence, others should be set free, should be taken in toto and not as per the convenience of the CBI, he submitted.
The main accused Dara Singh has already challenged his conviction and sentence, while the CBI has filed an appeal against the acquittal of 12 other accused in the case.
The Khurda sessions court in September 2003 had convicted all the 14 accused persons.
While Dara Singh and Hembrom were sentenced to death, others were awarded life imprisonment.
The high court had later commuted the death sentences of the duo into life imprisonment and acquitted the rest.