A British tourist was murdered by infuriated residents of a coastal village in the Konkan region of Maharashtra for allegedly molesting a woman, police said on Tuesday.
The murder occurred on December 10 but came to light after the British media reported it on Monday. It now transpires the police had quietly handed over the body to the British mission in Mumbai, which shipped it home.
"Stephen James Bennett was murdered by an angry mob from Malsai village (in Raigarh district) on December 10. The police, who were informed of the incident, recovered the body that was hung from a tree in the nearby jungle on December 11," the district's Additional Superintendent of Police Madhukar Talpade told over the telephone.
He did not say why the incident was kept under wraps for so long.
Four men have been arrested for the murder. Talpade identified them as Ramesh Maruti Mene, 38, his younger brother Vithobha Maruti Mene, 21, Chindia alias Nathram Ganapath Mohite, 35, and Kashinath Sitaram Marathi, 40.
They have been in police custody since then, while a hunt is on for two other accused who are absconding.
"The body was taken to the (government-run) JJ Hospital in Mumbai, where a postmortem revealed that the victim died due to head injuries and wounds on the neck," the police official said, adding the body was handed over to the British Deputy High Commission in Mumbai on December 15.
Talpade said Malsai village council chief Gnaneshwar Arjun Malusane had informed the police on December 11 that a body of a foreigner was seen hanging on a tree.
Police investigations revealed that the incident took place when Ramesh's wife Nirmala Maruti Mene had gone out to answer nature's call early on December 10.
"The frightened woman ran back to her home and soon Bennett came knocking on her door. Her husband Ramesh and his brother Vithobha attacked Bennett," the police officer said, adding that a mob soon gathered and beat the victim with sticks before hanging his body from a tree.
He said police found a British passport and a Margao (Goa)-Mumbai train ticket of Dec 3 in Bennett's pocket.