Suspect Arrested One Year After Missionary Murders

By Suryamurthy Ramachandran | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

New Delhi ( - A man wanted in connection with the murder of an Australian missionary and his two young sons in India a year ago has been arrested in the eastern state of Orissa, police confirmed.

"Dara Singh, alias Rabindra Kumar Pal, the prime suspect in the case who had been on the run for almost an year, has been arrested," local police chief YP Khurania said.

The officer, who led the special team investigating the case, said the man was arrested as he tried to buy a firearm.

State District Magistrate DK Singh said the police managed to track down Dara Singh in the jungle 300 kilometers north of Orissa's capital Bhubaneshwar after receiving a tip-off that he had been receiving medical treatment in the area.

The local-level Hindu leader is alleged to have led a mob that burnt to death 58-year-old Graham Staines and his sons, sons Timothy, 8, and Philip, 10, as they slept in their car in Orissa on January 22, 1999, and then forcibly prevented locals from attempting to rescue them from the blazing vehicle.

Staines, who worked among lepers, had lived in India for 34 years.

The Protestant missionary's widow, Gladys Staines, welcomed Dara Singh's arrest, saying she was glad "he won't be able to kill others."

"If given an opportunity to meet Dara Singh, I will ask him why he was fighting God," she said. "I will tell him that he is not fighting against us but against God. He cannot run away from God."

A judicial inquiry set up by the federal government after the murder absolved Hindu fundamentalist groups from involvement in the killing.

The commission said the killings were conducted by individuals and that the religious groups had played no role.

John Dayal, a Christian human rights activist, said the arrest may reveal the truth about allegations the killings were "a conspiracy of the Hindu fundamentalist group."

The killing of Staines and his sons sparked attacks on Christian missionaries elsewhere in India and led to a heated debate on religious conversion - one that dominated Pope John Paul's visit to India last November.

During an interview on the country's national television network shortly after the killings, Mrs. Staines called for forgiveness.

"We cannot demand a longer life span from God than what he has decided for each of us. I am grateful to God for giving [Graham] this long a life span to serve His people," she said.