Page last updated at 12:23 GMT, Thursday, 12 February 2009

India pair found guilty of murder

Moninder Singh Pandher
Mr Pandher is due to be sentenced along with Mr Koli on Friday

An Indian businessman and his servant have been convicted of murdering a young girl, the first verdict in a case involving the deaths of 19 people.

Moninder Singh Pandher and his servant Surinder Koli were arrested in January 2007 after body parts were found near their home in Noida, a Delhi suburb.

The duo were charged with murder, rape and abduction - most of the dead were children. Sentencing is due on Friday.

The crime shocked the country, with many accusing the police of negligence.

Local residents said police failed to act over the abductions and murders because many of those reported missing came from poor families.

'Landmark judgement'

Prosecution lawyer Khalid Khan told reporters that Surinder Koli was found guilty of kidnapping, murder and attempt to rape while Maninder Singh Pandher was also convicted of murder. They were tried by a single judge sitting in a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court.

"They will both get similar sentences," he said.

Police carry a bag containing remains of children
The grisly crime shook the country

"It's a landmark judgement. It's a victory for justice," Mr Khan said.

The court order has come in the murder case of 14-year-old Rimpa Haldar.

Residents say as many as 40 children disappeared in the area over two years before the crime came to light in December 2006.

The killings horrified people in India and the businessman's Noida home was dubbed the "house of horrors". The remains of the children were found hidden in bags.

India's federal police, the CBI, took over the case amid mounting accusations that local police had done nothing about the murders.

The accused were questioned by CBI officials and were also put through lie detector tests.

Six Noida policemen were sacked for alleged incompetence. Three senior officers were suspended.

The killings came to light after police discovered body parts of several women and children from a drain near a house in Noida.

They provoked widespread public anger and the authorities found it difficult to find lawyers willing to defend the two accused men.

In January 2007 the pair were assaulted by a mob - including lawyers - outside a court in Ghaziabad, near Delhi.

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