Surender Koli left home at the age of 13 seeking a better future, worked odd jobs, skinned animals for a living and “sometimes ate raw flesh”, brought home gifts and wept in custody at the mention of his daughter, investigators and his family said.
Officials of the Central Bureau of Investigation in New Delhi and his family members in the remote Uttarakhand village of Mangrukhal helped piece together the complex profile of the man accused of carrying out India’s biggest-ever serial killings case — the disappearance and deaths of dozens of people, mainly children, in Noida’s Nithari village.
“He was earlier in the profession of skinning animals for their hide, and he has said he sometimes ate raw flesh,” a senior Central Bureau of Investigation official told the Hindustan Times on condition of anonymity.
Three CBI officials who visited the village also questioned the family on whether the village had a tradition of child sacrifice — a question that angered many villagers, his wife Shanti Devi said.
Koli is the third son of Kunti Devi and Shankar Dham. His two elder brothers work for a hotel in Ber Sarai in Delhi. He studied at the local government school, a shy, silent boy who is not remembered for any mischief. “He never did anything wrong,” said Joga Singh, who was two years his senior at the school.
But there were few opportunities for young people in the village. Like many others in the village, Koli left for Delhi when he was merely 13-year-old, along with his brother-in-law. His first job was to wash utensils at a run-down hotel in New Delhi.
Seven years ago, he was married to Shanti Devi. Within a month of his marriage, he again left for New Delhi to find a new job, and landed up in Noida. He worked for six years at the house of a retired army major, who then introduced him to businessman Moninder Singh Pandher, said Shanti Devi. Pandher is Koli’s co-accused in the case.
A year later, his wife spent some days with him at D-5, Sector 31, the white mansion owned by Pandher that would soon hit national headlines.
“My daughter was a year old when I went to Noida. I stayed there for a week or so — I don’t remember exactly how long. My husband used to cook food there,” she said.
Koli seems deeply attached to his daughter — police investigators who earlier questioned him said he frequently wept at the mention of the girl. Last week he became a father again, when his wife gave birth to a baby boy.
Koli had told his family that he earned Rs 1,500. Within few months of working at Pandher’s house, his salary was increased to Rs 1,800. “He never used to send us any money, I am sure he never had enough for himself. But whenever he came home he used to bring gifts for all of us. He had just joined the job and he couldn’t have taken leave,” said Shanti Devi.
“He might probably never be able to see the face of his son.”