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January 9, 2002
0123 IST

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Staines murder: Witness identifies Dara Singh, three others

A prosecution witness on Tuesday identified the prime accused Dara Singh and three others in the course of the trial in the sensational killing of Australian missionary Graham Stuart Staines and his two minor sons at Manoharpur in Keonjhar district nearly two years ago.

Joseph Marandi, a resident of Manoharpur village, told the court of District and Sessions Judge M N Patnaik in Bhubaneswar that when the crowd of attackers surrounded the vehicle in which Staines and his sons were sleeping on the night of January 22, 1999, he had spotted two persons who belonged to his village.

Asked to identify them from those standing in the dock, Marandi pointed out to Mahendra Hembram and Renta Hembram.

When questioned if he knew any other person in the dock who was present at the scene of the crime, Marandi picked out Dara and Rajat Kumar Das alias Dipu saying they had set fire to the vehicle.

Recalling that Staines often visited their village and that people addressed him as saheb dada, Marandi said the missionary, accompanied by his two sons and some others, had come to Manoharpur on January 20, 1999.

Staines slept in one of the two vehicles they came in, he said.

At around midnight, the witness said, he woke up hearing the noise made by some people who were attacking the vehicle with lathis.

When he came out of his home, which was next to the local church, Marandi said three persons holding sticks and a torch threatened him.

He watched the events that unfolded from a small alley between his home and the church, he said.

The witness said the next day the police seized a clock, a camera, few steel glasses and spoons, torch shells, two small choppers and a few coins from the burnt vehicle.

He and Samson Marandi had signed the seizure list as witnesses, the court was told.

The police returned after about eight days and seized some broken glasses, ashes, sand and soot from the roof of the vehicle, he said.

During cross-examination by defence counsel Banabihari Mohanty, the witness said he had also identified three of the accused persons from about 30 to 40 photographs shown to him by CBI officials but denied identifying the accused persons at the instance of the CBI.

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