Producer: Aparna Singh
Viceo Editor: Mohd. Irshad Alam
Trigger Warning: Mentions and descriptions of violence.
No contact with the family, changing hideouts and appearance – this is how Rajwinder Singh escaped police for four years, until the law caught up with him. Accused of murdering a woman in Australia in 2018, Singh was arrested by the Delhi Police on Friday, 25 November, based on inputs from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Interpol.
A nurse, Singh fled Australia two days after allegedly murdering 24-year-old Toyah Cordingley in Queensland, following a heated argument triggered by her dog barking at Singh.
On 3 November, the Queensland Police announced a record-breaking 1 million Australian dollar (Rs 5.3 crore) reward for the public to provide information on Singh.
Nearly three weeks later, Singh was arrested from North Delhi’s GT Karnal Road and subsequently produced for extradition processes before a court.
Singh had emerged as a person of interest after eyewitnesses saw him near the beach, and was also a suspect after CCTV footage from the Cairns was scanned.
Almost two and a half years later, in March 2021, Australian authorities approached Indian officials to extradite Singh, while Interpol issued a red corner notice against Singh.
In November this year, the Queensland Police offered a reward of one million Australian dollars (647,000 USD or Rs 5.28 crore), the largest ever by the Queensland officials, who also sent three Australian police detectives to work alongside the authorities in India.
Police sources suspect that the accused came to India and started living in Punjab. Investigators said Singh had been changing hideouts as well as his look to evade arrest.
A spokesperson from the Delhi Police said that on 21 November, a non-bailable warrant was issued from the Patiala House Court against Singh under the Extradition Act.
Reports added that while Singh was not in touch with his family, he was in connection with some friends and eventually, the police was able to put him under surveillance.
A police source told The Indian Express that Singh frequently changed hiding spots in Delhi and Punjab and did not have any contact with his wife, children or parents, who live in Punjab. Moreover, they added that the accused came to India and started living in Punjab.
When Singh was arrested, he had changed his appearance and was seen wearing a turban, with a long beard and had moved shop to North Delhi as the investigated heated up in Punjab.
“On 25 November at 6 am, based upon inputs shared by CBI/INTERPOL and Australian counterparts, in an intelligence-based operation, the accused was apprehended from near GT Karnal Road and arrested by Special Cell,” Delhi Police said in a statement.
Singh, a resident of Moga, Punjab who moved to Australia almost two decades ago, will be extradited in connection to the case.
'Australian Federal Police Assisted Indian Law Enforcement'
Australian law enforcement agencies, including the Australian Federal Police and Queensland Police Service had been in touch with Indian authorities. Australian Federal Police's Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team (FAST) and AFP New Delhi have been actively assisting QPS in the search and arrest, a statement by AFP said.
It is anticipated that he will face court in India and be subject to extradition proceedings to Australia, Australian police authorities said.
"The man was believed to be avoiding apprehension in the Punjab region in India since travelling to the country on 23 October 2018."Australian Federal Police and Queensland Police Service joint statement
Sharing further, it said that an extradition request was approved by the former Australian Attorney General and presented to the Government of India in March 2021.
"Between 27 October and 8 November 2022 QPS officers travelled to India and in conjunction with AFP New Delhi had direct engagement with Indian Law enforcement to share information with the intent to arrest the man," it added.
Cordingley, who worked at a pharmacy and an animal refugee centre, was walking her dog on Wangetti Beach, about 40 km from Queensland's Cairns, where she was murdered, in October 2018.
An angry Rajwinder found himself at the same beach, carrying a kitchen knife and some fruits, after an argument with his wife.
According to investigators quoted by The Indian Express, an argument broke out after Toyah Cordingley’s dog barked at Singh, angering him and ending with Singh allegedly stabbing her multiple times.
After burying the body in the sand, Singh tied the dog to a tree and returned to his home to collect his passport, eventually fleeing for India two days later, on 23 October 2018.
Toyah was reported missing on 21 October 2018 before her “half buried” body was discovered by her father and the police 12 to 16 hours later, at Wangetti Beach, north of Cairns. The report said that her body “visible and violent” injuries and added that she was strangled as well.
According to Australia's 7news.com, Queensland Police Detective Sonia Smith confirmed that Singh departed Cairns on 22 October 2018, the day after Toyah was murdered, and then flew from Sydney to India on the 23 October. "His arrival in India has been confirmed.”
Family Kept The Fire Burning
Cordingley’s mother Vanessa Gardinger told reporters, "Her life was taken way too early. I see her friends and stuff getting married with kids and that now and think of everything she has missed out on in her life," ABC reported.
"Her life was taken way too early. I see her friends and stuff getting married with kids and that now and think of everything she has missed out on in her life…She was just about to start her first full-time job on Monday, which never happened."Vanessa Gardinger, Toyah Cordingley’s mother
A spokesperson for the family, Wayne ‘Prong’ Trimble, said that the horrific crime continues to take a toll on Toyah’s family and the community, but also said that they remained hopeful that justice would eventually be served.
The Queensland community had continued their campaign for justice, with Cordingley's name hanging in shop windows, posters strung on trees and on several car bumper stickers in Cairns.
A business owner on Cairns, Steve Parsonage said that he printed 38,000 stickers since 2018 and continues to hang them.
'Hope It Brings Closure to the Victim’s Family'
“We hope that today’s arrest brings some closure to the victim’s family following an agonising four years of uncertainty,” AFP Commander Transnational Operations Richard Chin said. Queensland Police Service Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the arrest highlights the excellent relationship between Australian and Indian authorities regarding this matter.
“Together with other Australian agencies we have continued to work closely and respectfully with Indian authorities to pursue justice for Toyah and her family.”Katarina Carroll, Queensland Police Service Commissioner
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