Page last updated at 18:01 GMT, Sunday, 13 April 2008 19:01 UK

India marathon boy coach murdered

Biranchi Das with Budhia Singh. Pic: Sanjib Mukerjee
Biranchi Das started working with Budhia when the boy was aged three Pic: Sanjib Mukerjee

The coach of India's famous six-year-old marathon runner Budhia Singh has been shot dead in the eastern state of Orissa, police say.

Biranchi Das was killed after being approached by three attackers at his judo club in the city of Bhubaneswar.

Police ruled out any link to his involvement with Budhia Singh.

Under Mr Das, Budhia began running at three and once ran 65km (40 miles) without rest. Mr Das later faced charges of torture.

Community shocked

Mr Das became involved in a heated row with the three assailants on Sunday evening and three shots were fired at close range, police said. The attackers escaped on motorcycles.

The BBC's Sandeep Sahu in Bhubaneswar says Mr Das was hit by two of the bullets and was declared dead on arrival at hospital.

Our correspondent says police have ruled out a link to any feud over Budhia Singh and suspect the involvement of a well-known local gangster.

Budhia Singh with his mother
Budhia's mother fell out with the sports coach

Sushant Das, Biranchi's brother, said he saw the man fire the pistol and said he believed there may have been an argument over an actress the man was involved with.

Deputy Commissioner of Bhubaneswar police Amitabh Thakur said checkpoints had been set up to stop the attackers escaping.

Our correspondent says the murder has left the city's sporting community shocked and hundreds of people have gone to the Capital Hospital where his body is being held.

Budhia Singh gained worldwide fame in 2005 when it was revealed that aged three and a half he ran seven hours at a stretch, sometimes as far as 48km.

Biranchi Das said he took Budhia under his wing after the boy's mother had sold him to a man for 800 rupees ($20).

Mr Das said he noticed the boy's running talent and paid the man his money back.

Budhia's exploits grew and in 2006 he ran 65km without rest in a little over seven hours.

But doctors and child rights activists condemned the run and took a closer interest in him.

Police in Orissa stopped Budhia from competing in a 500km walk on the grounds that it would seriously damage his health.

Then Budhia's mother, Sukanti Singh, who had supported Mr Das, accused the coach of exploiting her son for monetary gain.

Mr Das was charged with intimidation and torture.

He said the charges were baseless and in retaliation for not giving Budhia's mother money that she had asked for.

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