By Nadeem Badshah
MINISTERS have been criticised for failing to extradite an Indian man who is also accused of three alleged rapes to face trial over the murder of a British woman 10 years ago.
Michelle Samaraweera, 35, was found dead in a playground in Walthamstow, east London, after going out to buy milk. A post-mortem revealed she was strangled and raped.
The prime suspect Aman Vyas, 34, left the UK and returned to New Delhi to live with relatives.
He remains on bail and despite more than 50 court hearings, there is no date for a ruling to be made on his extradition.
A further court hearing is scheduled to take place later this month. Vyas, who lived in the UK on a student visa is also wanted over three alleged rapes in the two months before Samaraweera’s murder in 2009.
Her family have been supported by their local MP, Stella Creasy, who has repeatedly urged the UK government to intervene.
The Labour MP told Eastern Eye: “For 10 years now, Walthamstow has been demanding justice for Michelle Samaraweera who was raped and murdered, as well as the other women who (allegedly) were raped by Aman Vyas.
“Despite being charged with these heinous crimes, for most of the last decade, he’s been avoiding extradition thanks to the lack of action by both the Indian and British authorities in this affair.
“Despite this being the most serious case of sexual violence involving British citizens, despite raising this repeatedly with ministers and several prime ministers, this man is free to go about his daily life while the lives of these women and their families have been ruined.
“To date, there have now been over 50 court hearings, including one scheduled for July, and there still hasn’t been any real progress.
“Ministers tell me they can’t intervene in this matter to get this extradition to happen. But they can sit down with the Indian authorities and talk trade. It is time they showed all British lives matter and got Aman Vyas back here so he can face British justice.”
Vyas, the son of a wealthy businessman, was held at New Delhi International Airport in July 2011 while trying to board a flight to Thailand after Scotland Yard issued an international arrest warrant. He was then released on bail.
An application by the fugitive’s lawyers to dismiss the case against him was rejected by an Indian judge in 2012, but British authorities have been unable to extradite him to face justice.
Radha Stirling is a lawyer and founder of Detained in Dubai, a civil and criminal justice organisation. She said that despite the
UK and India having an extradition treaty for nearly 30 years, the process remains slow.
Stirling told Eastern Eye: “The family of Michelle Samaraweera have suffered for a decade without justice. India has made dozens of extradition requests from the UK since 2002, but only two have been approved.”
In 2016, then prime minister David Cameron told ministers to contact Indian authorities to try to speed up Vyas’s extradition. Last year, Creasy raised the issue with British prime minister
Theresa May during prime minister’s questions, asking if she would raise the case with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during his visit to the UK.
The Home Office said in a statement: “As legal proceedings are ongoing in India, it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment.”