Anuj Bidve, the Indian student who was killed on Boxing Day, had strayed into a neighbourhood that figured in an official list of Britain's most dangerous 'no-go' areas for its sheer criminality, drugs and gun culture.
Ordsall in the northern town of Salford – part of Greater Manchester city – is a notorious crime hotspot. In 1998, it was identified by then finance minister Gordon Brown as one of "Britain's 20 worst housing estates" that needed urgent government attention to stem growing lawlessness.
In July 1992, rioters in Ordsall shot at police and firefighters following 18 months of trouble. People familiar with the area say they wouldn't visit it in the dead of night, as the 23-year-old and his friends did at around 1.30 a.m on December 26.
"That area is not particularly good for anyone to be walking about at that hour of day," Brian Everall, editor of Salfordonline.com told HT. "Police tried to break up the area, but in vain."Most Britons steer clear of lawless areas. Bidve's death raises questions about the kind of safety advice students get from universities.
"You get a lot of general safety advice, but no one tells you about housing estates, (violent) teenagers or knife crime," said Sahana Bajpaie Herrett, a former student of a well-known London university. "When you first come in, your guard is lowered because you are in the First World as it were."
Students pick up such information from local newspapers, new friends and "when your friends get mugged", said Bajpaie Herrett.
There are 113 undergraduate and 144 postgraduate Indian students at the Lancaster University. A spokeswoman said the university is "one of the safest" in Britain. But safety advice documents issued by universities do not mention crime statistics or areas that students should avoid.
Five people have been arrested so far in the case.
Police are not ruling race as a motive, but some crime experts say the murder bore the hallmarks of a gang initiation ritual. Norman Owen, leader of the Liberal Democrats party in Salford, said: "I am really concerned. We are being dragged down by this issue and the police have got to get into gun crime."
MEA offers help, CM Chavan meets family
The ministry of external affairs wrote to Anuj Bidve's family on Thursday saying it would help them get his body to India at the earliest. "The email has three points – taking up the matter with the UK authorities, expenses of sending back Anuj's body to be borne by the consulate of Birmingham and our travel charges to be paid by the ministry of external affairs," said Rakesh Sonawane, brother-in-law of Bidve.
Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan met the family in Pune. "I have assured the family of all possible support. I will talk to the Indian high commissioner in London and the external affairs minister to ask them to expedite the matter," he said.
inputs from Pune