It was a Friday morning in the month of June at the city of Melbourne in Victoria. The city was being swept away by cold gust of wind.
Ignoring the cold weather people started gathering near the court house in downtown Melbourne. Only few people were allowed to enter inside the court room where the judge was going to pronounce the quantum of punishment for one Mr. Inder Singh. Three days before, the same judge pronounced a verdict in which Mr. Singh was convicted of culpable homicide for the death of a three and a half year old boy Julian Rothschild. The court house was surrounded by all possible news media reporters, photo journalists etc. According to most of the media reports, Mr. Inder Singh’s trial was one of the longest running criminal case in the state of Victoria, in which for the first three months police had neither any clue about the motive behind the crime nor had they any idea about who possibly could kill a three and a half year old child of a parent who had no known or could have any unknown enemy in this land of southern hemisphere.
Six months before, just before Christmas the city of Melbourne was shuddered by the news of the murder of a three and a half year old child whose body was discovered by a garbage collector inside a waste container when he was pouring its content into the rubbish truck near the Clifton Hill railway station. The truck driver discovered it by accident; while he was pouring the content of the waste container into his vehicle’s hopper, he heard some unusual sound, like the sound of a soft and heavy object dropped into a large container; he could hear it amid the background noise of the running truck engine. He stopped the engine instantly to stop the object from being moved to the rear of the truck where it would be compressed. He came out of the driver’s seat and climbed on the hopper to find out what the object was. He could not believe what he saw. Without losing any time he called the police from a pay phone near the station. It was a hot and sultry morning and the entire area was cordoned off by the police. The onlookers, who were mostly morning train passengers, started watching the actions of the police. The citizens were not accustomed to see any major crime and it became clear to everyone that it was a premeditated murder otherwise why the body would be dumped into a waste container?
The day before the body was discovered, the city police had received a phone call from one Mrs. Rothschild for her three and a half year old son who was missing since morning. In the complaint Mr. and Mrs. Rothschild mentioned that their son was playing alone in their quiet neighborhood, inhabited by very few families. In the complaint it was mentioned that Mr. Rothschild had already left for the office in the morning. His wife, who also had another infant baby and therefore stayed at home, started inquiring about her boy when she was about to drive to the supermarket. She had put her infant baby into the baby car seat and fastened it at the back seat of the car. She started calling her son by his name. She did not get any response. She found nothing unusual about it knowing that her son Julian had a habit of playing hide and seek with his mother. She started the car engine knowing that her son would come out of his hiding place immediately, fearing that his mother would go for shopping without him. She waited few seconds for her son to show up. When her son did not show up, she felt little unusual. She stopped the engine, came out of the car and started looking for her son. When a brief and cursory look had failed her to locate him, she went back to her car, took her baby into her arms and started asking the neighbors if her son was in their houses. When she had realized that her son was not in any of her neighbor’s house she rushed to her home and called her husband at his work. Her husband asked her to call the police and he immediately left the office to reach home.
As soon as the body of the child was discovered by the garbage collector, the police immediately contacted the Rothschild family for identification. After the family confirmed that the body was of Julian’s, it was sent for postmortem.
There was no sign of any injury by knife or any other sharp object in the body. The initial investigation by the police revealed that his rib bones were fractured and he vomited blood. The postmortem report confirmed that the cause of Julian’s death was due to the fatal injury of his lungs and heart due to severe rupture of rib bones caused due to collision by some heavy object. The police could not find any other evidence which could help them in the investigation. It took almost three months before the police could make any headway in that investigation. In between, all the news media started criticizing the police department for their total inefficiency. There was also rumor suggesting that Melbourne police was taking help from the Scotland Yard police in the investigation and there was no statement made by the city police about that, either denying or accepting the charge of taking help from a foreign country.
The first breakthrough in the investigation was obtained when another garbage collector in another corner of the city discovered a car trunk mat of a Mercedes Benz car, dumped into a waste container. Probably because of its flat and wide size and grey color it did not draw any attention from any garbage collector before. On that day, the garbage collector could observe from the reflection in the round and oval shaped mirror, which was fixed in the middle of the long rear view mirror, that some flat object in the container was creating some obstruction in the transfer of garbage from the waste container into the hopper of the rubbish truck. Using the joy stick, which maneuver the forks, which were inside the sleeves of the container he gave it a jerk hoping that it would drop the flat object into the hopper, but it did not. He moved the waste container at the front of his truck using the joy stick, placed the container on the ground and disengaged the fork from the container and was about to leave the spot. He suddenly got curious and reengaged the fork with the container, lifted it once again and tried to drop the flat object into the hoper by giving it a jerk again. It remained in the same position where it was before. He moved the container at the front, placed it on the ground and while the forks were still inside the sleeves, he stopped the engine, got down from the car and walked near the container to take a look at the flat object. He did not find anything interesting initially; it was only a rubber mat. On a closer look he found black stain on the rubber mat and when he looked even closer he realized that it was the mat of a Mercedes Benz car and he could not find any wear and tear in it. He thought for a while and then looked around to find if there was any payphone.
Forensic investigation revealed that the black stain in the mat was the blood of Julian Rothschild. But still the police remained clueless about who could have murdered the child and dumped the body in one corner of the city and tried to get rid of the evidences in another corner.
The detective department jumped into action. Two days later a search warrant was issued against Mr. Inder Singh who was also the next door neighbor of Mr. Rothschild; he was brought to the police station for initial questioning. After few hours of questioning he was arrested and next day morning he was produced before the court.
The day after Mr. Inder Singh was arrested, the city police gave their first press briefing. The police had already lost their credibility for being unable to show any result in the investigation. That was an opportunity to save the face.
Mr. Inder Singh was a first generation Indian Australian who migrated to Melbourne, Victoria from Jalandhar, Punjab. After working for few years in a transportation company he started his own transportation company and became very successful in the business. His wife, Mrs. Parminder Kaur, who was living with him, was also from Jalandhar, Punjab. She had been working in a local grocery store. After he had started his own business, she left her job and started helping him in their business. The couple had three sons, all were born in Melbourne. When Mr. Singh was arrested by the police for murder charges his eldest son Jasbinder was in Perth; he was studying Business Management at the University of Western Australia.
After the blood stain was discovered, the police met with a little luck. They started looking for all possible car mats which were having the same size as that of the one which was found in the garbage. It was realized that no other manufacturer manufactured same sized mat, so if one had to replace the mat it had to be replaced by a Mercedes Benz mat. Then the city police collected sales data from all the dealers who had sold those mats from the day of the murder till the day the mat was discovered in the garbage container. The police met with luck again; probably because it was an expensive item, every customer who purchased it, had purchased using credit card. Along with the credit card details the police also received the names and addresses of the credit card holders. They were surprised when they found that one of the buyers was Mr. Inder Singh, who lived just opposite to Mr. Rothschild’s. When the local police was contacted they came to know that Mr. Singh was a model citizen, have three children, who were in schools, no once lodged any complaint against any one of them ever. He not only celebrated Hindu festivals but also celebrated all the Christian festivals with equal enthusiasm. He had very good relationship with all his neighbors.
While questioning Mr. Inder Singh in the police station the investigating officer observed that he was sweating profusely. During questioning, the officer observed lots of anomalies and contradictions in his statements and as a result of which he was arrested and produced into the court the next morning. The case lasted in the court for three months but finally the verdict was given against him.
On the Friday morning Mr. Inder Singh’s lawyer called Mr. Singh’s wife at their residence and informed her that Mr. Singh was sentenced to 45 years in prison. He expressed his deepest sympathy and requested her not to break down at that critical hour but to finish all the unfulfilled tasks of her and her husband’s. After few minutes of talk he disconnected the phone.
In his verdict the judge mentioned that even though Mr. Singh had no intention to kill the innocent child but the way he reacted in the situation was not any different from a worst criminal having no compassion for human life and people of his nature should have no place in any civilized society. The only place which would suit him would be the solitary cell in a jail.
Immediately after that he was handcuffed and taken to the jail where he was supposed to serve his term, which for all practical purposes would cover the rest of his life.
The next week on Monday at noon when Mr. Inder Singh was lying on the cot in his prison cell, a prison guard came to him and told that Mrs. Parminder Kaur had come to visit him. It was almost the end of the visiting hour. The guard asked him to get ready so that he could take Mr. Singh to her.
In few minutes time both reached the visiting room where Mrs. Kaur had been waiting for her husband. The guard had left both of them in the room and closed the door from behind.
“Parminder, I thought that you will not be able to come today”, Inder Singh told his wife.
“I am sorry Inder for being late. To reach here I had to take a taxi, then a train and then again a taxi. It is very far from where we live. I could not drive so far all by myself” she replied.
“I brought your blood pressure and allergy medications and the extra pair of prescription glasses”, she continued. “Those are with the prison warden, he promised that he will hand over those to you. If you need anything else I will bring them during my next visit. Are you able to eat the food here? Try to do some physical exercises every day. Do not lie down immediately after having meal. I have also brought a turban but the officer told me that their rule book does not allow any inmate to use any piece of cloth beyond a certain length. But when I explained the purpose of this cloth, he promised that he would consider. ”
“How is Jasbinder”, he inquired about his eldest son.
“He is back in Melbourne now. I think he does not want to go back to college”, she replied.
“Is Gurmeet going to school”, he inquired about his youngest son.
“Gurmeet went to school”, she told, “But when the boys had started taunting him, he came back home. The school authority asked me to admit him into some other school, in another school district if possible, where boys and girls would not know him. But I do not know how it would be possible without moving to another location.”
Both remained silent for a while.
“Inder, can you tell me now how this had happened” her voice started choking while she asked this.
He remained silent.
“Inder”, she continued, “when I was 17, my father gave my hand to you and from that moment you became my guide. You are the best husband any woman could ever have. You are not only a great husband but you are also the best father any children could ever imagine”, she could realize that her voice had started choking and probably she would have to stop soon. “You always set examples before us. At every moment we wanted guidance we looked into your actions and we knew what we should do.”
“When our lawyer had mentioned to me that we were going to lose this case” she continued, “I asked him not to mention anything about the case again but to collect his legal fees from me regularly and to do what best he could. I did not want to hear anything from anyone. I stopped reading newspapers, stopped watching TV and our children did the same thing. I fasted almost every day, prayed day and night. Now the worst is over, I am at peace now, the best I could have for the rest of my life. But I and our children have the right to know. I want to know from you because it is only you whom I trusted all my life and will trust forever.” She realized that she could not speak any more.
“It was three or may be four days before the Christmas”, Inder Singh started. “I brought home the large Christmas tree and the wreath. We all agreed that the wreath was fitting perfectly on the door but the tree should have been little shorter and little wider. Hence it was decided that that I should return the tree next morning and get a new one in the afternoon while returning home. ”
“Next day in the morning”, Inder Singh continued, “I kept the tree on the back seat. The tree was too large to be fitted into the trunk of the car. I started backing off the car from the driveway while taking a right turn. Suddenly I heard some sound, as if the rear of the car had hit something. Since the tree was at the back of the car I could not see what was behind by looking at the rearview mirror. The tree was heavy and after carrying it from the living room to the car I started sweating a little and my prescription glasses also became little hazy. I came out of the car and saw that the little boy Julian was hit by the car. I felt his chest, I could not feel heartbeat, I kept my fingers before his nose, it was not breathing; I saw blood slowly started oozing out of his mouth. I realized that his lung or heart got punctured and he died on the spot. I knew that his father had left for work very early in the morning. I looked around and saw the entrance doors of all the houses in our lane were closed, no window was open. The first thought that came to my mind was how to protect myself and to avoid any kind of trouble. I took out the handkerchief from my pocket and plugged the boy’s mouth with it so that no blood could spill on the road. I put the body into the trunk and drove away. “
“And till the time you got arrested you spoke to Mr. and Mrs. Rothschild and even visited their house and still did not feel anything inside”, she asked.
“No. Because I knew it was a pure accident. I did not have any intention to do any harm to the child. I only wanted to protect myself from the police. Also the decision was instantaneous. Once I kept the body into the trunk I had nothing else to think but to finish what I had started.”
“Madam, the visiting hour is over. This is a high security prison and we do not allow visitors to stay beyond visiting hours. Please get ready to leave now”, they could hear the guard who was watching the closed door of the visiting room.
She stood up, wiped her tears with her Dupatta. “Inder, imagine this had happened to one of our children”, she said while she was about to leave.
Suddenly her husband burst into tears. While the door was closing behind her she could hear “Perminder, I am sorry.”
Author: Mintu Ghoshal
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