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Missing Indian American boy's body found

Last updated on: September 28, 2012 17:56 IST

The body of Harsha Maddula, 18, an engineering-pre med student at Northwestern University in Illinois, United States, who was missing since September 22, was recovered from the water in Wilmette Harbour on Thursday.

Maddula's wallet with his Northwestern ID card and his mobile phone were found on the body.

Wilmette Police investigators on the scene said there were no signs of foul play on the body.

"On behalf of Northwestern University, I extend our deepest sympathies to Harsha's family and to his many friends at Northwestern. Our hearts and thoughts are with them," said University president Morton Schapiro.

"The loss of one member of the Northwestern community deeply affects us all."

Maddula, whose family is from New Hyde Park, New York, was a sophomore in Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Maddula was last seen September 22 at approximately 12:30 am leaving a party off campus. Northwestern police and community service officers, aided by personnel from more than 20 law enforcement agencies and fire departments, conducted a search of the waters in Wilmette Harbour and Lake Michigan near the harbour.

Police focused the search on the Wilmette Harbour area because an examination of cell phone activity for Maddula's phone showed that the closest cell phone tower to the last signal received from his phone was in that area. The signal was received early on the morning of September 22, shortly after Maddula was last seen.

The family had announced $25,000 (about Rs 13 lakh) reward for information about him.

Family and friends could not believe the sudden end of a promising life. "He was a straight A pre-medicine student and this is out of character of him," Deepal Patadia, a friend of Maddula's cousin, said.

The authorities are doing their best, "but we still didn't find my son, so we're begging the people if you know anything about Harsha or you just saw him ... please call the police," his father Prasad Maddula, a pharmacist in New York, told the media earlier.

"If they're waiting for a reward, that's why we decided to give $25,000 to find out any information that leads to finding Harsha. Please, I want my baby back," his mother, Dhanalakshmi said.

Maddula is more of an indoors person, and it was unlikely he visited a harbour, according to his family when searches were made at the harbour. "He's not like that. He likes reading, books, getting his grades," his mother told the media.

Maddula's parents reached the campus the next day. But all the efforts turned in vain.

Wilmette Harbour is approximately two miles north of Maddula's residence hall on Northwestern's Evanston campus.

"We are worried about his safety. He is diabetic and without medicine he will be in more trouble," Soumya Maddula, a relation in New York, who is a medical student at Albert Einstein Medical School, said a day after he was found missing.

Friends from Maddula's dorm told The Daily Northwestern that they last saw him while leaving the off-campus party.

"They realised that he wasn't with them while they were walking to another party," said a friend of Maddula who was with him at the party.

Maddula left the party with three or four people, according to multiple sources who saw his group leaving the house. Some said they spoke with Maddula at the party, and recalled him not stumbling or visibly intoxicated as he left.

University Police have interviewed several students. In addition, they have reviewed closed circuit TV tapes and electronic key data for Maddula's residence hall, but neither indicate that he returned to his residence hall that night. 

Image: Harsha Maddula

George Joseph in New York