Witness at New Delhi trial identifies bus used in gang rape of woman

A bus arrives at a New Delhi court to be used as evidence in the trial of five men accused of rape and murder. Photograph: AP

A bus arrives at a New Delhi court to be used as evidence in the trial of five men accused of rape and murder. Photograph: AP

Wed, Feb 6, 2013, 00:00

The male friend of the Indian student who died after being gang-raped in New Delhi last December has identified the bus on which the attack took place.

The man (28), who cannot be named for legal reasons, was giving in-camera testimony yesterday in the trial of five men accused of the rape and murder of the woman (23). He confirmed that a white bus parked in the court compound was the vehicle where the assault took place on December 16th.

He is the first of 80 prosecution witnesses to give evidence in a case that shocked India and led to countrywide demonstrations by activists demanding stricter laws for crimes against women.

“Yes, my son could identify the bus,” said the witness’s father, who was accompanying him at the trial.

In his statement to police after the assault, the witness said the attackers had asked “where are you going with a girl so late at night?” before launching an assault in which he was beaten with a metal rod and had his clothes ripped off. While he was being beaten, the woman was repeatedly raped, the man said, according to a police charge sheet.

He and his companion, who was by then unconscious, were hurled from the moving bus into the cold winter night. Both lay naked on the road for more than an hour before being taken to hospital by police.

The witness, who will be cross-examined today, is using a wheelchair because of the severity of the beating.

“My son will go to any lengths to ensure that the guilty are punished,” his father said, adding that his son was prepared to answer any questions posed by the defence.

The five accused have denied the 13 charges, including murder, gang-rape and kidnapping.

A sixth defendant, who is a minor but was reportedly the most brutal in the attack, is being tried separately as a juvenile. If convicted the maximum sentence he faces is three years’ imprisonment. The five other defendants, aged between 19 and 35, could receive the death penalty.

The female victim, who cannot be named, died in a Singapore hospital on December 29th from internal injuries sustained during the gang-rape.

Prosecutors claim to have adequate forensic evidence, supported by the suspects’ mobile-phone records and the testimony of the dying woman and her companion, to secure the convictions of all five defendants.