Page last updated at 10:00 GMT, Friday, 5 March 2010

Australia investigates Indian toddler's death

Undated police handout of Gurshan Singh
Gurshan Singh disappeared from a house in Melbourne

Police in Australia's south-eastern state of Victoria are investigating the possible murder of a three-year old Indian boy.

Gurshan Singh was reported missing by his parents who were holidaying in the Melbourne area.

His body was later found by the side of a road about 30km (19 miles) away from the house he was staying in.

Officials have warned against jumping to conclusions, after several racist attacks on Indians in the past year.

Deputy police commissioner Sir Ken Jones said the cause of death had not been determined, but that police were treating the incident as a homicide.

Sir Ken said he had assured India that police would do everything possible to find out what happened.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said there was "nothing worse, than the brutal murder of a little child".

"The death of any little child causes everyone in this country to stop, pause, think, reflect," he said.

"The authorities are investigating it, we are confident the authorities will get to the bottom of it."

'Personally distressing'

Gurshan Singh, who was visiting from Punjab in northern India, disappeared from a house in the north of Melbourne early on Thursday afternoon.

About six hours after his disappearance, a council worker found a body at the side of a road which police said matched the boy's description.

Indian students rally in Melbourne, Australia, 31 May 2009
Attacks on the Indian community have provoked street protests

Victoria state premier John Brumby said he found the killing "personally distressing" but urged people not to presume any motive.

"What has occurred is an unthinkable tragedy. It's deeply, deeply distressing," he told reporters.

"There are no visible signs of the cause of death at this stage... but I think it's very important that no-one jumps to conclusions," he added.

The boy, whose mother was studying in Australia, had been in the country for about six weeks.

His death comes as Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has been trying to improve relations with India, a major export market, after a series of alleged race attacks.

The latest known attack was in January when Nitin Garg, 21, was stabbed to death as he walked to work at a burger restaurant.

The foreign minister had earlier acknowledged that some of the attacks, which prompted street protests last year, were racially motivated.

Earlier, senior officials and police had denied this.

Last month, thousands of Australians visited Indian restaurants for a Vindaloos Against Violence campaign, aimed at showing solidarity with the 450,000-strong community.

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