Second phase trial in Graham Staines murder case begins

Bhubaneswar,Sep 23:

The second phase hearing in the much-hyped reopened triple murder case involving Australian Missionary Graham Stuart Staines and his two minor sons began in Khurda District and Sessions court here on Monday.

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The second phase of hearing was required after CBI arrested two more accused persons allegedly involved in the heinous crime of burning alive Staines and his two minor sons on the night of January 22, 1999.

The duo, arrested on May 17 this year after remaining at large for about 14 years, were Ghanashyam Mohanta and Ramjan Mohanta. Ghanashyam belonged to Gayalmunda village while Ramjan was a resident of Bhalukera village.

Of the 10 witnesses summoned to record their statements today, only four turned up at the court.

The court has also summoned Graham Staines’ widow Gladys Staines for deposition. However, she is unlikely to turn up at the court even tomorrow as she stays in Australia, sources said.

Staines driver Nimai Hansda, in his deposition informed the court that he was sleeping inside the church at Monoharpur village in Keonjhar district when Graham and his two sons Timothy and Pjilip were sleeping inside the station wagon outside. He said to have witnessed the burning station wagon where the trio was sleeping.

Other three witnesses, however, expressed their inability to give any direct evidence against Ghanshyam and Ramjan.

CBI had filed chargesheet against 18 persons of whom 15 were tried and three were absconding. Of the three, two were nabbed on May 17 and Budhia Nayak was still on the run.

Already Dara Singh alias Rabindra Kumar Pal and Mahendra Hembram have been sentenced to life imprisonment in connection with the killings.

Dara Singh was initially sentenced to death by Khurda District and Sessions court on September 22, 2003, but Orissa High Court on May 19, 2005 commuted death penalty awarded to Dara to life imprisonment after he appealed against the district court verdict.

Mahendra Hembram was also sentenced to life imprisonment by the High Court. But eleven others sentenced to life imprisonment by the District and Sessions court were acquitted by the High Court.(PTI)

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