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Driver of gang-rape bus in Delhi hangs himself in prison

The driver of the bus in which a young Indian woman was gang-raped appears to have hanged himself in his cell. But the man was not on suicide watch, and his lawyer suspects foul play.

By Annie Banerji and Satarupa BhattacharjyaReuters / March 11, 2013

Indian policemen stand outside the Tihar Jail, the largest complex of prisons in South Asia, in New Delhi, India, Monday, March 11, 2013.

Saurabh Das/AP

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New Delhi

The driver of the bus in which a young Indian woman was gang-raped and fatally injured in December hanged himself in his jail cell on Monday, prison authorities said, but his family and lawyer said they suspected "foul play."

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Ram Singh, the main accused in India's most high-profile criminal case, killed himself just before dawn in a cell he shared with three inmates in New Delhi's Tihar jail, prison spokesman Sunil Gupta said.

Singh fashioned a noose from threads torn from the mat he slept on and hanged himself from a grill in the ceiling before dawn. While there were closed circuit cameras throughout Tihar, India's highest-security prison, there were none in individual cells, Gupta said.

Gupta could not say how long it would have taken Singh to make the noose or how he had managed to loop it through the grill, which was eight feet (2.3 meters) above the floor. He may have stood on a plastic bucket, Indian media reported.

Singh's lawyer, V.K. Anand, said his client had been composed and calm when he spoke to him in court on Friday and "didn't have any complaints." Singh, who faced the death penalty if convicted of murder, had not been on suicide watch, Anand and Gupta said.

"I know he had a few complaints of jail authorities torturing him, but nothing that would make him take his own life. We can't rule out foul play. Nothing is adding up," Anand said.

Anand has previously always denied that his client was being maltreated in prison. He would not elaborate on the "torture."

Federal Home (Interior) Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde called the incident a "major lapse" in security and said an inquiry had been launched.

Police have described Singh as the ringleader of five men and a juvenile on trial for the Dec. 16 attack on the 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist in the Indian capital. The assault triggered nationwide protests, a toughening of rape laws, and an intense debate about rampant crime against women in India.

All six accused have pleaded not guilty to rape and murder.

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