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Couple held for Indian's murder in Sydney

January 28, 2010 11:03 IST

The Australian authorities arrested a couple, on Thursday, in connection with the killing of an Indian, whose partially burnt body was found dumped by the side of a road in the New South Wales Riverina in December 2009.

A 23-year-old man and his 20-year-old wife, who have not been identified, were arrested at two addresses in Sans Souci in Sydney's south just after 1100 local time on Thursday, police said. Victim Ranjodh Singh's body was found beside Wilga Road, Willbriggie, near Griffith, on December 29.

25-year-old Singh was last seen on the streets of Griffith three nights before his body was found. He had recently moved to Wagga Wagga but was staying in Griffith to pick pumpkins and was living in a shared house with other farm workers from India. Media reports said it is understood that Singh joined a group of friends for pizza at Eagle Boys on the last night he was seen. One of his friends had been around town longer than Singh - who arrived in Australia a little more than a year ago - and had set himself up as a contractor. He befriended Singh and employed him. The group finished their pizza and went to a party at a nearby flat. They drank grappa and celebrated the birthday of one of the men, but there was tension in the air and some time before midnight a fight broke out, though it is not known who was involved.

There was friction because one of the group, the contractor, is thought to have owed a handful of pickers, including Singh,  9000 Australian dollars. Police have not revealed the cause of his death. Singh's aunt Sarita said her nephew was a gentle, friendly man. He left behind a wife, Kanchan, who was studying cookery in Melbourne. An ABC report quoted police officials as saying that Department of Immigration officials took part in Thursday's operation and spoke to several people inside a San Souci home.

Detectives allege the arrested couple knew Singh well and worked with him on farms in the region. Assistant Commissioner Mark Murdoch said a racial motive for the killing has been ruled out. "We will allege that the persons taken into custody this morning and the victim Singh were well known to each other," he said, adding "We will allege that while Singh was a resident of Wagga, he and the people taken into custody worked there as seasonal workers, picking fruit." Police said they expect to charge the couple with murder and indicated that another arrest was possible. They want to speak to the driver of a red Ford Falcon which was seen at a car wash in Griffith at 0300 hrs on 29, December 2009.

Natasha Chaku in Melbourne
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