London: In a major goof-up, the body of a mystery man has been mistakenly flown from India to the UK, believing it was that of a 54-year-old Indian-origin British hotelier who was allegedly murdered last May during a visit to the country. The body was today handed over to UK social services.
Indian authorities had sent the body believing it was that of Ranjit Singh Power, allegedly murdered during a visit to Punjab 10 months ago. Officials thought the corpse, one of five pulled from a river in Punjab, was the missing hotelier but dental records and DNA testing proved the body was not his.
"It remains unascertained. I can't be clear how he died. He was one of five males pulled from a river in Punjab. I have to give it an open conclusion. Sadly, that's as far as I can take this. No-one is coming forward," said Zafar Siddique, coroner for the Black Country region of West Midlands.
"In future, if family do come forward, we have the DNA. This will have to be referred to social services." The body cannot be repatriated back to India and a funeral will be conducted by social services, although the DNA would be retained in case of further inquiries.
A post-mortem examination estimated the dead man's age as 50 plus, but was not able to ascertain the cause of death.
Power had been last seen at Amritsar airport on May 8, 2015, before his UK-based family launched a search for him.
Indian taxi driver Sukhdev Singh has been charged with his murder and is awaiting trial after police said he has confessed to the killing and divers found a body in a canal in Ropar District.
"Dental records confirm it is not Mr Power and DNA confirms that the body is not related to the family," Detective Constable Zahid Ahmed, from West Midlands Police, told the inquest this week.
Power's UK-based family, including his partner Angela Bir, have stressed that her family is "focussed upon justice" and are working with police in Punjab to help in any way they can. They have since launched The Ranjit Singh Power Foundation Trust to support orphans and children with cancer in his memory.
They had feared he may have been kidnapped after he uncharacteristically failed to stay in contact with them and did not catch his return flight from Amritsar on May 14.
Initially offering 10,000 pounds for information leading to their father's return, they had later raised it to 25,000 pounds.