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Key witness was paid to turn hostile

KARAN RAJPUT, one of the three prime witnesses in the Jessica Lall murder case, was allegedly paid off by the father of Manu Sharma, the main accused, to change his statement in court. This was claimed by Rajput's friend, Surender, in a report by Star News and Tehelka on Tuesday.

india Updated: Sep 27, 2006 01:40 IST

KARAN RAJPUT, one of the three prime witnesses in the Jessica Lall murder case, was allegedly paid off by the father of Manu Sharma, the main accused, to change his statement in court. This was claimed by Rajput's friend, Surender, in a report by Star News and Tehelka on Tuesday.

Rajput, who died in 2005 of liver problems, had turned hostile in court, turning the case on its head.

On April 29, 1999 -- the day Jessica was shot dead -- Rajput had gone to Tamarind Court to meet Jitender Raj, his nephew who worked as a supervisor at the restaurant. Rajput was at the restaurant at the time of the murder.

The tapes broadcast on TV on Tuesday showed Surender saying that Venod Sharma, father of Manu Sharma, paid for the medical treatment of Rajput at the Sitaram Bharatiya hospital. "Rajput drank heavily and developed liver complications," Surender was caught saying on camera. "He was admitted to the hospital and all his bills were paid by Manu's father. He would pay Rs 20,000 per month and even more as per Rajput's demands. He even paid for his trips to Chandigarh, Manali and Nepal."

Rajbir Singh, Rajput's landlord, was also caught on camera saying that Rajput and he had gone to Chandigarh and Manali and stayed at the Piccadilly Hotel owned by Venod Sharma. Rajbir said Venod Sharma paid Rs 30 lakh to Rajput to change his statement.

Film actor Shyan Munshi and Shiv Dass -- the other two prime witnesses who had also turned hostile, leading to the acquittal of the nine accused in the murder case -- were also caught on camera. Munshi is caught saying: "The whole world knows who killed Jessica. They are powerful people." He also says: "I am fluent in Hindi," he said.                    

In his statement in court, Munshi had said the FIR was written in Hindi, a language he could not read. Munshi did not pick the phone when HT called him.

The channel showed Sabrina Lall, Jessica's sister, saying that before dying Rajput had called her to the hospital and asked her to call police so he could "tell them the truth". He reportedly told Sabrina he had betrayed her and wanted to mend his ways.

Reacting to the report, R.K. Naseem, Manu's counsel, told HT that the channel was manipulating facts. "It has already been proved in court that Rajput was not in Delhi at the time of the incident," he said.

Delhi Police Commissioner, K. K. Paul said, "I have not seen the tapes and cannot comment".