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The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones in Lahore
People are shocked by his confessions - but many have other things to worry about
 real 28k

Wednesday, 1 March, 2000, 14:31 GMT
Eyewitness: Trying a serial killer
Javed Iqbal with police
Javed Iqbal has changed his story and his denying his guilt
By Owen Bennett-Jones in Lahore

Forty-year-old Iqbal, looking relaxed, even bored, stands in the dock manacled to a policeman.

Around him there is a chaotic scene.

A dozen or so lawyers crowd in a semi-circle around the judge, wrangling as witness statements are typed out.

Boy crying
The trial has provoked strong emotion
One of the lawyers is special prosecutor Berhan Azam.

"In the Pakistan history, he is the most heinous offender. He is a beast, not a man."

A key bit of evidence is Javed Iqbal's diary, found in his house. It contains a list with the names and other details of 100 young boys.

Javed Iqbal maintained a meticulous record of all the missing children, their descriptions, their ages and specially on which date this accused killed which boy.

The entry for 29 November last year records Boy Number 83, 17-year-old Naim Mohammed.

Missing

That boy's father, a carpenter, says his son ran away six months ago.


"This photograph was found in Javed Iqbal's house. We stay up at night looking at it. We can't sleep. Our family has been ruined by this."

Naim Mohammed's father


The police took no interest when he reported him missing, but eventually they did find the diary entry and a photograph of Naim in Iqbal's house.

As the father showed me the picture of his smiling young son, his eyes filled with tears.

"My child left home and never came back. This photograph was found in Javed Iqbal's house. We stay up at night looking at it. We can't sleep. Our family has been ruined by this."

Police say he strangled the victims, dissolved their bodies in vats of acid and then poured the residue down the drain.

There is a religious shrine not far from here where the homeless can get free food and that has attracted many vulnerable children to the area, like 12-year-old Adnan.

He ran away from home three years ago.

"I used to work in a hotel. I get free food from the shrine. There is a park known as Ali Park. I sleep there."

Adnan said he had heard of Javed Iqbal but he didn't want to talk about him.

Bungled

The defence lawyers all believe that the police bungled the investigation and that apart from the confessions they have only circumstantial evidence.

Is it really plausible, they ask, that 100 bodies could disappear without trace?

Police search for clues
Defence lawyers say police bungled the investigation
Defence lawyer Sikandar Zulqanirn says Javed Iqbal has now changed his story and is denying that he is guilty.

"Actually, Javed Iqbal seems to be very calm while standing in that court. His eyes are very calm and he behaves like a philosopher. He wants to become a headline in the newspapers and media everywhere."

Javed Iqbal's trial is being covered by the Pakistani press and people here are shocked by his confessions.

But many Pakistanis have other things to worry about.

But in a country where lots of people struggle daily to feed their families, the trial is receiving far less attention than similar cases in the west.
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See also:

07 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Child murder witness dies in custody
13 Jan 00 |  South Asia
Pakistan 'serial killer confesses'
31 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Pakistan 'serial killer' arrested
12 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Lahore police charged with murder
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