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'Slain British tourist was drug addict'

British tourist Stephen Bennett was a drug addict and probably suffering from AIDS, police on Saturday quoted his mother as saying.

india Updated: Jan 06, 2007 19:02 IST

British tourist Stephen Bennett, who was allegedly beaten to death by a mob in a village last month, was a drug addict and probably suffering from AIDS, police on Saturday quoted his mother as saying.

Maureen Bennett flew down to India and met the family of the men accused in the murder of her 40-year-old son.

"Maureen has written to the British High Commission a letter, which was forwarded to me, saying that her son was a drug addict and was probably suffering from AIDS," Satyapal Singh, inspector general of police, Konkna region said.

Stephen Bennett, married with two children but separated from his wife, was battered to death and hung on a tree on December 10 after a mob from the coastal Malasai village in Roha taluka in Konkan region mistakenly assumed he had molested a married woman.

"Bennett's co-passengers in the Mandovi-Mumbai Express train said he had rolled up some papers, put something inside and began smoking in the compartment," Singh said.

"The smell of the cigarettes irritated the passengers so much that they told him to go to the toilet and smoke," he said, adding that when the train halted at Roha railway station, "Bennett got off and being under intoxication missed the train."

Malasai village is about seven kilometres from Roha railway station.

Singh said Bennett had been arrested by the British police in Cheltenham, Britain, for drugs.

The police official said Maureen had also stated in her letter that her son was in a disturbed state of mind after he separated from his wife and had contracted some disease from his wife for which he wanted to be treated in one of the hospitals in Mumbai.

Meanwhile, Maureen, accompanied by her daughter and a Hindi translator, visited the village of some 500 inhabitants on Friday and met Nirmala Mene, whose husband is one of the accused in the murder case.

Moved by the poverty of the Mene household, she gave Nirmala Rs 500.

Singh said the case has now been transferred to Raigarh Crime Branch to speed up investigation.

Significantly, according to police sources, there is no record of Bennett's stay in any hotels in Roha taluka.

Maureen has told the police that her son had been abducted by two men from Goa, where he was holidaying.