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Robbery motive behind Duke murder

Robbery is being seen as the motive behind the murder of the 29-year-old Abhijeet Mahato, reports Pramit Pal Chaudhuri.

india Updated: Jan 23, 2008 02:29 IST
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri

Robbery is being seen as the motive behind the murder of Abhijeet Mahato, the 29-year-old Indian PhD student at Duke University. Mahato was found dead by friends on Friday when his cellphone did not respond to calls. He had been shot.

The theft theory was buttressed by two incidents of robbery in the Duke University area on Sunday night.

In both cases, one reported by a university student and the other by an employee, an African-American man, 5 feet 8 inches tall, brandished a gun and robbed them. Both incidents took place off the campus.

Abhijeet’s apartment, where he was found dead, was also outside the Duke premises.

His family has authorised a friend, a professor in Michigan University, to fly to Durham, North Carolina, to help arrange for the body to be flown to India.

Two Indian embassy officials, Sanjay Sinha and Alok Pandey, went on Monday to Durham for the same purpose.

Larry Moneta, the vice-president for student affairs at Duke, has been quoted as saying that “it seems to be a case of robbery”. He said there was no evidence this was a race crime. “Mahato had no enemies,” he said.

Moneta also said there had never been any racial incidents involving Indians in Duke. There are about 200 Indian students and 20 faculty members of Indian origin in the university.

The murder of two Indian doctoral students at Lousiana State University in December is being seen as a hate crime.