Moninder Singh Pandher, the businessman accused of sexually assaulting and killing at least 17 children in Noida, had a disturbed childhood due to which he began drinking heavily later in life, say those who knew him in Shimla.
"I remember Pandher had a somewhat disturbed childhood on account of his mother. I also know he began drinking heavily three-four years ago, which strained his relations with his wife. I suspect he developed a serious mental sickness in recent years," a classmate of his said.
Pandher studied at the elite Bishop Cotton School here from 1963-73 after which he graduated from St Stephens College in Delhi.
"Moninder was called Goldy Pandher at school. I remember him as a wonderful chap," said another classmate of Pandher on conditions of anonymity.
"I have been in touch with him through college and even later. I last spoke to him about a year ago," he said.
Pandher mostly lived in the house he owned in Noida, a suburban town of Delhi, where the skeletons of at least 17 children, suspected to have been killed by him and his servant Surendra, were recovered by police last week in a case that has shocked the nation.
The numbers could be higher in one of India's most sensational and gruesome crimes with 38 children reported missing from nearby Nithari village.
Another schoolmate recalled: "I remember him as a very tolerant senior boy in school and find it hard to believe he could be a paedophile and psychopath."
The Bishop Cotton School was founded in 1859 and is one of the oldest, best known boarding schools of India. Pandher's son, too, recently passed out from the same school.
After graduating, Pandher inherited a successful family transport business, which spreads across Delhi, Noida, Chandigarh, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.
Pandher's estranged wife Devinder Kaur and son Karan live in Chandigarh and were also questioned by police on Monday.
Pandher was arrested Friday, along with Surendra, who reportedly confessed to having killed about a dozen children whose remains have been found in the backyard of their house.
Pandher is said to be severely diabetic and is likely to undergo a narco-analysis test.