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India asks Canada for forensic help in solving homicide

 

Indian labs did not provide DNA evidence in slaying of prominent Canadian doctor

 

JONATHAN WOODWARD

 

Special to The Globe and Mail

 

Knives, a broken granite slab, and the blood-spattered clothes of four men accused of slaying a prominent Canadian doctor in India are in Canada for testing, after Indian labs failed to produce DNA evidence.

 

Three years after Orangeville, Ont., obstetrician Asha Goel was beaten to death in Mumbai, and over a year after suspects were arrested, the High Court of Mumbai ordered that police in India get forensic help from Canada.

 

"Finally, Canada is doing something for my mother," said Dr. Goel's son, B.C. businessman Sanjay Goel.

 

Mr. Goel said he had little confidence in the Indian testing agency and hoped Canadians would recover evidence that could put his mother's case to rest.

 

"Too many people have said this was an Indian problem. My mother was a Canadian. This is a Canadian problem," he said.

 

In 2003, Dr. Goel travelled from Orangeville to India to help end a family feud over a $5-million inheritance. Days after she met her brothers, her battered body was found in the apartment of one brother, Suresh Agrawal.

 

The initial police investigation in India stalled without arrests and police watched their main suspect, Mr. Agrawal, die of natural causes.

 

Mumbai Crime Branch Inspector Jaywald Hargude picked up the case. He told an Indian court that he believed "certain vital aspects of the matter were not adequately investigated."

 

After Insp. Hargude's work, police arrested four men in Dr. Goel's killing. Then, police alleged in court that Dr. Goel's two brothers, Suresh and Ottawa resident Subhash Agrawal, had hatched an international conspiracy to use the four accused men to kill her over the $5-million inheritance.

 

During the initial investigation, Indian labs were able to determine the blood type on the clothes, but did not extract DNA. Insp. Hargude arrived in Canada with the boxes of evidence last week and handed it to the Centre of Forensic Sciences in Toronto on Monday.The CFS volunteered to conduct the new studies for free, said Ontario deputy chief coroner Jim Cairns. If Dr. Goel's blood is found on the clothes, that may go a long way toward convicting the four men in their Indian trials, he said. Results are expected within two weeks.

 

Since his arrival in Canada on Friday, Insp. Hargude has held private meetings with Sergeant Ken Doyle of the Ottawa Police Department.

 

"We were having a professional meeting," Sgt. Doyle said. "Right now, the Ottawa Police can assist an investigation but only with an official request.

 

"It has to go through a process -- an official international process -- to ensure that the rights of the Canadian citizens are respected," he said.

 

Police in Ottawa haven't received such a request, usually made under the terms of a mutual legal-assistance treaty. But Insp. Hargude said his government had made the request in October and it is working its way through diplomatic channels.

 

"We have already informed the Indian embassy in Canada to get some investigations to help us," Mr. Hargude said. "It has already been issued by the Indian government."

 

Police have treated the killing as being in Indian jurisdiction, though Indian police have alleged in court that the conspiracy was hatched in Canada. Insp. Hargude said his visit would be limited to getting evidence against the four men, but he would do more on this visit if ordered.

 

"I am not going to do certain things without direct orders," he said. "I will not do any investigations until I receive orders like that."

 

Subhash Agrawal and his lawyer did not return phone calls, but his wife Sarita said in a telephone interview that her husband is innocent.

 

"The truth is not coming out," Ms. Agrawal said, adding that improper police procedures are what has led Indian police to her husband, putting her family "through hell."

 

Mr. Agrawal has not gone to India due to kidney problems, she said.

 

"My husband has done everything possible to answer the charges," she said. "Our family has suffered so much and there is not a whisper of evidence against him."