Gladys Staines, widow of Australian Graham Staines, who was killed along with his two minor sons by religious fundamentalists in 1999, on Friday deposed at the District and Sessions Court here as a witness in her husband’s murder case in the second phase of the hearing.
The second phase of hearing was required after the CBI
arrested two more accused persons in the crime of burning Staines and his sons alive while they were sleeping in his station wagon at Manoharpur in Keonjhar district on the night of January 22, 1999. Sources said the hearing would continue for some more days. A Bajrang Dal activist, Dara Singh, was convicted of leading the gang that murdered Staines and his sons and awarded death sentence by the Bhubaneswar District and Sessions Court.
The Odisha High Court, however, later commuted the sentence to life in prison. Singh is now lodged at the Baripada jail. Staines had been working among the tribal poor and leprosy patients in Mayurbhanj district since 1965.
Some Hindu groups alleged that he was forcibly converting or luring Hindus into Christianity.Gladys Staines has denied these allegations. She continued to live in India caring forleprosy patients until she returned to Australia in 2004. In 2005, she was awarded the civilian honour in India, Padma Shree, in recognition of her work with leprosy patients.