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Slain doctor's son wants Canada's help

Bombay police pay little heed, he says to brutal beating of obstetrician



UPDATED AT 4:57 PM EST - Wednesday, Aug 27, 2003


The son of a Canadian obstetrician who was beaten to death in India last weekend is calling on the Canadian government to take a greater role in the search for her killers.


"There's so many questions that we are very angry and very frustrated. The deeper we go trying to learn what happened, the less we get," Sanjay Goel said.


Asha Goel, who was chief obstetrician at Headwaters Health Care Centre in Orangeville, Ont., was found on Saturday morning, lying in a pool of her own blood, on the 14th floor of a residential building in Bombay.


Mr. Goel said that the Bombay police, already taxed after bombings Monday that left 46 dead, haven't been able to put many resources behind the case.


"In Canada, the police would have sealed off the entire floor [where she was found]. That's not what happened here," he said. "Evidence has been damaged, trampled or has disappeared due to poor handling or process. That's been very difficult to deal with."


The building where Dr. Goel was staying as she visited a sick relative is accessible only with help from someone inside the building, Mr. Goel said. He added that the police have not had the time to pursue that or many other possible leads or suspects.


"The reality of trying to find a detective who is not only capable but committed to solving the crime has been very frustrating."


Mr. Goel, his father and his two sisters, who flew to Bombay when they received the news, have tried to get the Canadian government involved in the case, with little success.


"We need the Canadian government to take a greater role in this matter," Mr. Goel said. "I appreciate there's protocol and things of that nature, but it was only after a very spirited visit to the consul here in Bombay that we were able to get them to write a letter to the police to say this requires a more dedicated approach."


In the letter, senior Canadian trade commissioner Ping Kitnikone told R.S. Sharma, commissioner of the Bombay police, that the issue "is of grave concern to the Canadian government and we would seek your office's help in ensuring that the matter is accorded the highest importance."


Patrick Riel, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa, said that the Canadian consulate was "in contact" with the appropriate officials. He would not elaborate on who those officials were.


He did say that if the circumstances surrounding the killing become clearer, Foreign Affairs may do more to push the case along.


"This just happened," he said. "And we are responding appropriately."


Although Mr. Goel said the letter was a good step, he believes more needs to be done before the government has an impact on the police.


"It's going to need more than a polite letter from the consulate to have this case elevated to the highest level," he said. "And it needs to be.


"There are 21 different points of injury on my mother. As a son you are outraged to see so little accomplished," he said.


"I have no idea who did this or why this was done. I only know this was a horrible way my mother was killed.


"If you want to kill someone, you take a gun, put it to their head and pull the trigger. You don't blind them, break their teeth and hit them in the head with a piece of granite," he said. "It's the most barbaric way to die. It's the way a cave man would kill another cave man."


The death of Dr. Goel, who by her son's estimate brought about 10,000 infant Canadians into the world in her 30 years of obstetrical work, has left a huge hole in the Headwaters Centre where she worked. Her husband, S.K. Goel, is a surgeon at the same hospital.


"Her obstetrical team, who had worked very closely with Dr. Goel, are in a state of serious shock and dismay," Kathryn Hunt of Headwaters said yesterday.


"We have had grief counsellors on site. We have put a book of condolences in our chapel for our staff and patients, and we are receiving calls from her patients, expressing their sympathy and condolences.


"She was a remarkable woman."


Ms. Hunt said that a memorial to Dr. Goel was being planned, but that nothing would be finalized until her husband returned from Bombay and approved the ideas.