Case Studies
Surinder Koli: The Nithari Cannibal Convicted for 10 Cases

Surinder Koli: The Nithari Cannibal Convicted for 10 Cases

Nithari is a small village in the planned city Noida, situated in Uttar Pradesh, India. Noida accounts for most of the developmental magic as a city as well as a good number of crimes that include rape and murder.

Around March 2005, a girl aged about ten years went missing from Nithari. She was the only daughter of a couple who had come for construction work. Even though a complaint was filed, no convincing steps were taken by the police.

A few weeks later, three more girls went missing from the same village. A group of villagers reached the Noida police station and the officers in charge asked them to write a complaint and leave. The missing personages count increased with time.

Due to the careless attitude of the police towards the case, the outrageous public started protests. As an initiation probe formality, the police spoke to the missing children’s parents and asked them if they had scolded the girls any time recently.

With such an irrelevant question they concluded that the girls probably would have run away due to the anger they had on their parents and would return in a few days.

The kids started vanishing not just from the lanes near their homes but also from schools. The helpless parents kept visiting the police station to check on the update of the case but the police were unable to get any lead.

Horryfying Discovery and Investigation

In 2006, residents of Nithari started to notice an unusual odor that came from the drains closing to the walls of the Bungalow 450, which belonged to the only rich businessman in the village named Moninder Singh Pandher.

Pandher was known to make business trips due to which nobody used to stay at his home except his domestic help, Surinder Koli. On 29 December 2006, the people from the village started to dig up the drains leading to the shocking invention of eight skeletal remains.

This however was not shocking enough for the police to act on due to which the angry public went aboard to Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi and started protesting in front of it. With heavy political pressure on the UP Government, the police were given an immediate order to start an investigation in the case.

On 30 December, a few more skeletal remains were found. Both the remains were sent to forensic analysis in Agra. The result proved that all the remains belonged to young girls aged between 09-17 years except for three who were aged around 19-20 years.

Both Surinder Koli and Moninder Singh Pandher were taken by the UP police for questioning. They were also taken to Gandhinagar for their brain mapping, polygraph tests, and narco analysis.

After questioning, Koli confessed that he had killed the girls and most probably Pandher was not aware of it. However, Pandher kept quiet and did not speak a word while questioning.

In all the bodies or the skeletal remains found, the torso was missing. This had created a suspicion of Organ trafficking as Pandher was a well-known businessman who traded between countries.

While checking the bungalow after Koli’s confession, they had found the missing girls’ belongings as well as erotic magazines and a laptop with a webcam attached to it. When the cyber cell checked the PC, they found Pandher posing with three nude girls aged around 13 years.

This produced a controversy between the police and the media, where the media strongly believed that there is a case of child pornography building up, with the police denying it strongly. Later on, the police turned the possibility down stating that the kids were Pandher’s grandchildren and the child pornography assumption was a rumor created by the media.

Due to a lack of strong evidence, Pandher was dropped back home by the UP police and kept Koli in custody. This further created havoc among the public where they stated that due to the efficient influence Pandher had as a businessman he was being let free.

Further samples taken from the crime scene were sent for DNA Analysis at the Forensic Science Laboratory in Hyderabad. Out of the 18 missing girls eight of them were raped.

After this invention, as per the request from the Central Government a panel of experts was set up for an investigation into the case, who visited the parents of those who were raped and offered a compensation amount of twelve lakh rupees. The family rejected and sent the compensation back.

With the lazy police attitude, increasing public outrage, and political pressure, the case was handed over to the central government who put the CBI in charge of the investigation. By this time several Sub Inspectors and Superintendents of police were suspended with an accusation from the public of lack of responsibility.

On 8 February 2007, a special CBI court gave the verdict to hand over Koli for further interrogation under CBI for 14 days. The investigation was put on hold by the Supreme court stating that Koli is a patient suffering from Fixations due to Disorientation and he was taken in by expert psychologists from All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

Who was Surinder Koli?

Koli was born in 1970, in a tiny impoverished settlement in the Himalayas. Quite an unnatural place for a criminal to be born indeed. He belonged to a poor family who depended on farming and selling agricultural products.

They had freezing winters and scorching summers through which Koli and his three brothers lived along with their parents. As per the caste system in India, he was a Dalit aka untouchable due to which he was often abused by the high-class elders in his village.

He did not complete his schooling and dropped out at the fifth standard. Their family was strictly vegetarian, however, his father assisted a butcher for extra income which was later on joined by Koli as well. Koli did not enjoy cutting meat quite surprisingly.

He later left the village and moved to Noida after marriage in quest of a standard job. He visited his family once or twice a year on occasional holidays. In the year 2005, Koli joined as Pandher’s domestic help.

Neighbors informed the investigative teams that both Pandher and Koli rarely stepped out of the house and they used to have women visitors between 11 pm and 2 am. Koli’s wife was pregnant around the same time but she mascarried.

The shock of losing his first child was quite heavy on Koli. But he never shared it and kept it all to himself.

After a week Koli’s wife gave birth to a girl child, she tried visiting him at Noida. But she was sent back to the village as soon as she arrived, probably as he was amidst the murder spree.

Modus Operandi of His Crimes

Surinder Koli was pretty much aware of his actions. He confessed to killing 19 women to the CBI. He also remembered each one of them and had described them too.

Koli lured small girls by giving them chocolates or candies. He would then take them inside the Bungalow and strangle them using their chunni (a scarf-like cloth which girls usually wear) or choke them using his hands.

While in the process he would try to have sex with the girls covering their face with the scarf, of which eight of them were successful, two of them were an attempt to rape, and the rest of them he did not try.

After killing them he had a strong urge to eat the flesh, in the case of one girl who was around 11 years old, he cooked her chest and arm and ate it. As per the psychologists who were in the team of investigation, his strong urge for Cannibalism and rape came as a by-product of fixation.

After killing the kids, he would then cut the body with a butcher’s precision and wrap the pieces in a polythene bag and dispose of it in the drain. He was always careful to clean his room and the bathroom free of blood.

Condition of His Deviant Behaviour

Psychology explains Deviant Behavior as any behavior that is contrary to the dominant norms of society. It could be due to various reasons that a person might face it.

The expert panel of Psychologists from AIIMS, New Delhi had reported that Koli was a victim of heavy deviant behavior due to the lack of sexual satisfaction since birth at five different levels of psychosexuality given by Sigmund Freud.

According to Freud, humans undergo five stages of psychosexuality, oral, anal, phallic, latent, and genital. The erogenous zone associated with each stage (such as mouth for oral, genitalia for genital, etc.) serves as a source of pleasure.

If these needs are not met at the age period given to each stage, it could lead to fixation or deviant or abnormal behavior as psychosexual energy or libido, is the driving force of behavior in humans. 

Due to the presence of his mental state the doctors had requested the court to guarantee him a rehabilitation facility instead of putting him under a tortuous correctional institution. However, the plea was rejected.

Unsolved Mysteries

On 13 February 2009, Koli was convicted and was given death sentence by a special CBI court for the rape and murder of 14-year old Rimpa Halder, one out of his several victims. But the public vandalized Pandher’s Bungalow and protested as the judicial system let Pandher free.

Even though later on Allahabad court convicted Pandher, due to lack of evidence proving Pandher’s involvement in the gruesome act, he was given a short time imprisonment which ended in 2020. But the case had more mysteries to it than it already had. 

On 8th September 2014, which was supposed to be Koli’s execution day, a stay order was given to his death sentence at 1 am in the night with half an hour left for the execution process, the court changed the date of execution to 12th September.

On 12 September 2014, the death sentence of Koli was changed to lifetime imprisonment, disappointing the public and the victim’s family members. After that what happened to Koli is unknown.

However, Pandher after release moved to his family home in Chandigarh. The only victim who was not a minor was Payal. It was proved by the CBI that her phone was used by Pandher. But the Supreme Court ruled out the evidence. 

With maximum political involvement and repercussions all around the country, a detailed probe into how Koli was able to commit such heinous acts alone is still a question, especially considering the background he grew up in.

Many still believe that there is more to the Nithari murders and Koli has had strong support from somebody or a group of people other than Pandher in committing the crime.

With the country’s most trusted judicial system letting go of a potential suspect like Pandher without a further investigation as well as changing a death sentence into life imprisonment, nobody was held accountable.

Nand Lal, father of Payal had said in an interview that he was threatened and harassed by the police at the initial stages of the investigation stating that he was building up stories regarding his daughter’s disappearance.

The victims’ families did not receive the justice they deserved. A compensation made out of money would never account for the loss of seventeen plus lives.

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