Published22 hours ago
A court in India has acquitted two men who spent years on death row for the rape and murder of 19 women and children in 2005.
Surinder Koli and his businessman employer Moninder Singh Pandher were convicted in 2009 in a gruesome case that shocked the country.
They were held in 2006 after body parts were found near their home near Delhi.
On Monday, the Allahabad High Court acquitted Koli in 12 cases in which he had been sentenced to death.
The court also ordered Pandher to be freed in the two cases in which he’d been found guilty. The two men were acquitted due to “lack of evidence”, their lawyer told the media. The full court judgement has not been released.
The murders came to light in 2006 after body parts and children’s clothing were found inside a sewer in front of Moninder Singh Pandher’s house in a wealthy suburb of the capital called Noida.
At least 19 young women and children had been raped, killed and dismembered. Police alleged at the time that the murders took place inside Pandher’s house, where Koli worked as a servant.
Police alleged that the children, remains of whom were found hidden in bags, were lured to their deaths by Koli, who offered them sweets and chocolate. They alleged that during the investigation, Koli had confessed to cannibalism and necrophilia. He later retracted his confession in court saying it had been beaten out of him.
India’s top investigation agency CBI registered 19 cases against the two men. While Koli was charged with murder, abduction, rape and destruction of evidence, Pandher was charged with immoral trafficking.
The murders caused national outrage, with many accusing the police of negligence. The media had dubbed it the “house of horrors” because of the shocking nature of the crimes.
Local residents said that police failed to act because many of those reported missing came from poor families. They lived in a nearby slum called Nithari and the case has also been referred to as the “Nithari killings”.
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