Page last updated at 17:35 GMT, Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Hannah's killer led bigamist life

By Kieran Fox
BBC News

Kohli's second wife speaks of her trauma

Deep in the state of West Bengal in India, Red Cross volunteer Bharati Dass thought she had met the "jolly man" of her dreams.

She was so convinced that Mike Dennis - a fellow Red Cross volunteer - was the man for her that she agreed to run away with him.

And just three months after they met, the couple married in secret.

"I wanted to marry him because he had a very jolly personality and by seeing that kind of personality I liked him," she said.

"He was just as good with young children as he was with adults. He was happy with everyone on the [vaccination] camps."

But little did Ms Dass realise that Mike Dennis was hiding a dark secret.

Her new husband was actually Maninder Pal Singh Kohli, a fugitive murderer and rapist who had fled to India after killing 17-year-old student Hannah Foster in Southampton, England.

I have to move on, I have to find the strength to come to terms with it
Ms Dass

He had left Britain, where he already had a wife and two young children, two days after Hannah's body was discovered on a roadside just outside of the city.

Using his alias in India he managed to keep one step ahead of police and he became confident.

Brigadier Nripad Kumar Gurung, vice-chairman of the Indian Red Cross, said Kohli came to them seeking to be a volunteer with their hepatitis B inoculation programme.

'Popular man'

He said he was introduced to Kohli by a man called Oath Bahadur Dass - Ms Dass's father, and described him as a helpful and enthusiastic volunteer.

"He had come to us from Darjeeling with one other person who supplies us with medicines," he said.

"So we were not quite aware of his background, he was just like any other person.

Oath Bahadur Dass
Mr Dass said he did not welcome his daughter's marriage to Kohli

"He was quite a popular man because whenever the children were there he used to go down to the shops and buy toffees and give it to the children."

Ms Dass said that when she met Kohli he was a "nice man" who everyone respected.

"It was good to live with him, he used to look after me, he used to cook for me, he used to call me Suni (meaning beautiful)," she told the BBC through a translator.

But their marriage was not well received by her father.

Speaking through a translator, Mr Dass said: "I was told that Bharati had run away…. she had taken the decision to get married and so be it.

"He was a total stranger to us. Our daughter getting married to him was a bit of a surprise and I don't think it was very welcome news. I was totally hurt.

"When I heard the news that Hannah Foster had been murdered by an Indian I somehow felt in my inner mind that could be this man. But of course at that point I could not confirm it."

The marriage was to last only 28 days.

bus stop
The bus stop in Panighata where Kohli was arrested

All the while Hannah's parents had been visiting India to appeal for help in tracing Kohli.

Kohli became worried by media reports and he led his new wife on an "outing", towards the border with Nepal and away from capture.

Meanwhile, a suspicious Mr Dass was frantically trying to find his daughter's whereabouts.

"I telephoned all over," he said.

"Around midnight I could speak to Kohli on his cell phone and when I asked him where they were, Kohli told me they were on their way to Gangtok."

Picture in paper

Mr Dass was feeding the information he gleaned to the local police.

Kohli and Ms Dass were tracked down to Panighata near the Nepalese border and he was arrested by undercover police as the couple waited at a bus stop.

"I was so shocked," said Ms Dass.

Maninder Pal Singh Kohli in the UK before the murder
Maninder Pal Singh Kohli in the UK before the murder

"Then there were his pictures in the newspaper and I saw those, that's when I found out for the first time he was somebody else and people were also telling me things about him.

"There was not anything about him that led me to believe there was anything wrong."

Kohli continued to protest his innocence.

Officer Pradham of the West Bengal Police said had Kohli crossed the border into Nepal, he may never have been captured.

The revelation about Kohli came as a shock to his new family.

Mr Dass said: "We never thought he was a murderer, it was quite a big surprise to us.

"Obviously he was running away from the law and he was trying to find a place, a corner of India as it were where he could just get lost.

"It was a big blow to me because my family has a very good reputation, including my daughters."

Ms Dass was traumatised by the experience and for a while became a recluse.

"In the future I won't run away and get married. The next time it will be with the knowledge of my parents," she said.

"I'm OK now, but I have to move on, I have to find the strength to come to terms with it."

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