Gladys Staines deposes before court; fails to identify accused

Bhubaneswar: Gladys Staines, widow of Australian Missionary Graham Staines who was killed along with his two minor sons in 1999, on Friday could not identify two accused persons while deposing before a local court here.

Staines who has been residing in Australia, appeared before the District and Sessions Judge, Khurda as per a summon issued to her.

Giving details of the incident that took place on the night of January 22, 1999, Gladys informed the court that she was not present at Monoharpur village of Mayurbhanj district when the miscreants set fire to a van where her husband and two sons, Timothy and Philip, were sleeping.

“Since Mrs Staines was not present at the spot, she could not recognise the accused persons. She informed the court about the killing as a witness,” CBI counsel K P Mishra said.

The court fixed next the hearing on February 5.

“I am very happy to be in India. I love the people here,” she later told reporters outside the court.

The second phase of the hearing on the triple murder case began last year after the CBI arrested two more accused persons allegedly involved in burning alive Staines and his two sons. .

The two, Ghanashyam Mohanta and Ramjan Mohanta, were arrested on May 17, 2013 after remaining at large for about 14 years. Ghanashyam belonged to Gayalmunda village while Ramjan was a resident of Bhalukera village.

Earlier, the CBI had filed charge-sheet against 18 persons of whom 15 were tried and three were absconding. Of the three, two were nabbed on May 17 and one Budhia Nayak was still on the run.

Dara Singh alias Rabindra Kumar Pal and Mahendra Hembram have been sentenced to life imprisonment for the killings.

Dara Singh was initially sentenced to death by Khurda District and Sessions court on September 22, 2003, but the Orissa High Court on May 19, 2005 commuted the death penalty to life imprisonment after he appealed against the district court verdict.

Mahendra Hembram was also sentenced to life imprisonment by the high court. Eleven others sentenced to life imprisonment by the district and sessions court were acquitted by the high court.

Staines had been working among the tribal poor and leprosy patients in Mayurbhanj district since 1965.

In 2005, Gladys was awarded the Padma Shree, in recognition of her work with leprosy patients in Odisha.