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|May 6, 1999||
Manu Sharma, wanted in model's murder, surrenders
Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Manu Sharma alias Siddharth Vasisht, prime accused in the murder of model Jessica Lal in a Delhi restaurant on Friday, April 30, surrendered to the Delhi police in Chandigarh today.
Sharma had been absconding since Jessica's murder in the small hours of April 30 at a restaurant run by socialite Bina Ramani. The model was apparently killed for refusing to serve a drink to Sharma.
"I am innocent and am surrendering on the advice of my father [Venod Sharma]," Manu Sharma told reporters in Chandigarh before he was whisked away by Inspector Raman Lamba and his men.
Sharma was being brought to Delhi tonight, to be produced before a magistrate tomorrow after interrogation.
Giving details, Joint Commissioner of Police (southern range) Amod Kanth, who is supervising the investigation, told Rediff On The NeT that Sharma was forced to surrender by the immense pressure built up by the police which consistently raided his hideouts in Chandigarh.
"The team headed by Raman Lamba was camping in Chandigarh and monitoring the movements of Manu Sharma's relatives. It was because of such pressure that he was forced to surrender," Kanth said.
Asked if Inspector General of Police (Chandigarh) Kiran Bedi was aware of the development, Kanth said, "The Chandigarh police had no clue about it whatsoever."
But he refused to identify the place where Sharma surrendered in Chandigarh. "It is not prudent to tell you all those details now. I have had only a brief talk with Inspector Lamba on the phone, and he told me about the surrender. Once the team comes to Delhi I will get a complete report."
Though Kanth was visibly relieved at Sharma's arrest, more than him it was Y S Dadwal, joint commissioner (New Delhi range), who had more than the usual reasons for relief: his name figured in the media in connection with the case because of his presence at the party. Dadwal was earlier IGP, Chandigarh, and according to the police he stayed at the party till 0030 hours IST.
But all is not over yet. Another accused, Vikas alias Vikky Yadav, son of Member of Parliament D P Yadav of the Janatantrik Bahujan Samaj Party, is still at large. Two of Sharma's accomplices, Amardeep Singh Gill alias Tony and Ashok Khanna, were arrested by the Delhi police yesterday when they returned home after spending five days in hiding.
Yadav, Tony and Khanna had gone to the restaurant in Qutab Colonnade along with Sharma on the fateful night, and had helped him flee the scene.
D P Yadav has been summoned by the Delhi police and asked to assist in procuring his son's surrender. Instead, he is reported to have threatened the police with the prime minister's intervention.
Kanth was not very forthcoming when asked about the refusal of the police to arrest socialite Bina Ramani, owner of the 'Once Upon A Time' restaurant where the murder took place, for various offences. Her restaurant had no liquor licence from the Delhi excise department. Besides, police say she ordered the cleaning up of bloodstains on the restaurant floor, thus willy-nilly destroying evidence.
"We are acting on a report filed by one of her employees. We have yet to establish that she did it [the clean-up] with the intention of helping the accused. In any case we have enough evidence to pin down all the accused," said Kanth.
Asked if the case would stand scrutiny of the law, Kanth said there were many witnesses who would vouch that the murder took place in the restaurant, and that Manu Sharma was the one who did it. "We are still in the process of investigating the matter. We are yet to interrogate Manu Sharma. Once his interrogation is completed the real picture will emerge."
Kanth was most harassed through the day, as indeed he has been over the last seven days since the murder. Even today senior officers of the Union home ministry, Delhi Lieutenant Governor Vijay Capoor, and Chief Secretary Umesh Sehgal were at him to wrap up the case. His RAX phone would just not stop ringing.
Attempts to get Kiran Bedi on the telephone in Chandigarh proved futile as she was "away on the field".
Meanwhile, Jessica Lal's family has expressed satisfaction at Sharma's surrender. "We hope we will get justice in court," they said.
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