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Defence witness claims Staines tried to molest her

Source: PTI
June 12, 2003 19:41 IST
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A female defence witness in the Staines murder case told the trial court on Thursday that the Australian missionary had tried to outrage her modesty.

Graham Staines and his two minor sons -- Philip and Timothy -- were burnt alive as they slept in a jeep at Manoharpur in Keonjhar district of Orissa on the night of January 23, 1999.

Hemalata Karua, 32, of Machhagarh village in Keonjhar district told Khurda Sessions Judge M N Patnaik that she and her husband had been to a church in their village where they met Staines and his wife in October 1998.

She claimed that Staines had asked them to convert to Christianity to avoid financial difficulty. He also invited them to a jungle camp to be held at Manoharpur after the festival of Makar Sankranti.

Karua said she and her husband converted to Christianity at the camp on January 21, 1999, and were given new clothes. They also attended a prayer meeting and a film on Christian faith that evening.

Later, they were served beef at dinner, which she refused to eat, she claimed. She did mention that neither she nor her husband had been offered any money by the missionary to change their faith.

Stating that she stayed alone in a hut behind the local church that night, Karua alleged that the missionary came there later and attempted to outrage her modesty.

She informed her husband the next morning and they left for their village.

Two days later, she heard that Staines had been killed and did not report his alleged misbehaviour.

Twenty days after the incident, she claimed, the missionary's wife visited her to express regret for his actions.

Central Bureau of Investigation counsel K Sudhakar vehemently denied Karua's claims and asserted that she had not visited Manoharpur and Staines had not misbehaved with her.

The missionary's wife also had not visited her village, he said, and charged her with lying in court at the instance of Dipu Das, one of the main accused in the Staines murders.

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