The man who Indian police say was the leader of a group of men who gang raped a young woman three months ago has allegedly committed suicide.
Prison authorities say 33-year-old Ram Singh was found hanging in his cell in Tihar jail in New Delhi around 5 a.m. Monday. Efforts to revive him failed.
Singh was the driver of the private bus on which a 23-year-old student was brutally beaten and gang raped in mid December. She died two weeks later of the injuries she sustained. The incident outraged India and the world.
Singh along with four other men and a juvenile allegedly beat her with metal rods and raped her before throwing her on the road. The police report of the rape says Singh was the ringleader of the horrific incident.
Singh was due to appear in a fast-track court on Monday in connection with the trial, which began last month. He and the other accused had pleaded not guilty of the gang rape and murder.
Amid questions about lapses that led to Singh's death, jail officials said the suspect had been on suicide watch. They said his death will be investigated and told local media he used his clothes to fashion a noose.
Singh's family and his lawyers have expressed doubt whether he committed suicide. Singh's defense lawyer, V.K. Anand, says there were no circumstances that could have led to his client's taking his own life. He has demanded an inquiry.
Anand says Singh was not under any mental stress, and was very happy. He said he had been meeting his parents and family members daily. Singh's parents also said he could not have killed himself. His father said his son had been murdered.
Singh was the resident of a slum in New Delhi. Police say he and his friends had been drinking heavily when they decided to take the bus out and picked up the woman and her male friend, who thought they were boarding a regular bus.
Her death triggered nationwide protests and loud demands for death for her rapists.
Minister for Women and Child Development Krishna Tirath said it would have been better if Singh had faced justice in a court of law. Tirath says his death should send out a message to other men who continue to commit such crimes.
The gang rape triggered much soul searching in India about how women are treated. But, reported incidents of sexual assaults against women have not abated. In fact the number of rapes reported so far this year in New Delhi is higher than in the same period last year, according to police figures. Police say this is maybe because more such assaults are being reported than in the past.