Thursday, January 04, 2007

Skull man has VIP links

Chandigarh, New Delhi Jan. 3: The alleged serial killer now in police custody for the sexual assault and murder of a series of young victims in Noida, Mr Moninder Singh Pandher, has close connections with Congress politicians in Punjab. A public school education in Bishop Cotton School, Shimla, and St. Stephen’s in Delhi, an excellent family record and political connections with senior Congress politicians are part of the emerging profile of Mr Pandher, who had residences in both Noida and Chandigarh.

Mr Pandher belongs to a very affluent and well-connected Punjabi family that originally came from the holy township of Paonta Sahib in Himachal Pradesh. He is closely related to several senior Congress politicians, including the present Jalandhar MP, Rana Gurjit Singh, former Punjab Pradesh Congress chief Mohinder Singh Gill and Mr Sukhpal Singh Khaira. His wife Devinder Kaur is a niece of Mr Mohinder Singh Gill. His friends describe Mr Moninder Singh, also known as Goldy, as “a highly intelligent man with a good sense of humour”.

Mr G.S. Sandhu, who has known the man as a distant relative and social acquaintance in Chandigarh’s Sector 27 (Moninder owns a posh 2,000-square-yard house here), said, “He was kind of introverted and would show you his fun-loving side only after he got to know you well.” Mr Deepak Sharma, who used to own a workshop in Chandigarh’s motor market, recalls Mr Pandher as “a generous man who was very fond of expensive cars”.

His classmates from Shimla’s Bishop Cotton School also remember him as “a rather jovial sort and very fond of the high life”. Mr Sandhu, whose acquaintance with Mr Pandher goes back more than 25 years, said, “He was always more promiscuous than the rest of his friends, who saw him as a bit of a womaniser.” The other women who have apparently always been a part of Mr Pandher’s “good life” were in fact the singular cause of considerable friction within his own marriage with his wife Devinder Kaur.

The couple nonetheless continued to share the palatial family house in Chandigarh on the insistence of their son, Karandeep Singh, these days a student in Canada. Mr Pandher stayed here each time he visited Chandigarh though he spent most of his time away in Uttar Pradesh, where he ran a lucrative business supplying earthmoving equipment. But Ms Devinder Kaur’s family is now openly talking about the couple’s “irresolvable differences” and consequent decision to legally separate some two years ago. Friends say they fear the son may have to suffer the consequences of his father’s alleged crimes.

The family has also reportedly discouraged Ms Devinder Kaur and her son from trying to meet Mr Pandher in custody. Mr Moninder Singh Pandher’s friends, however, said that though fun-loving he was very mature and responsible about his family commitments. “He looked after his ailing father like a dutiful son and remained with him right till the end,” said Mr G.S. Sandhu. “Old Sampooran Singh (Moninder’s late father) always favoured him over his older brother Iqbal.” Mr Iqbal Singh is currently in court contesting his father’s decision to bequeath the expensive family home to Moninder. He had even filed a complaint with the Chandigarh police apprehending a threat to his life.



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