2006 Noida serial murder investigation

2006 Noida serial murder investigation

Surender Koli and Moninder Singh Pandher
Also known as: Subhash Koli, Surendra Koli, Surinder Koli
Born: 1970 or 1971 (Koli)
August 1, 1957 (1957-08-01) (age 52) (Pandher)
Almora district, India (Koli)
Ambala, India (Pandher)
Number of victims: 19
Span of killings: 2005–2006
Country: India
State(s): Uttar Pradesh
Date apprehended: December 29, 2006

The 2006 Noida serial murder investigation began in December 2006 when the skeletal remains of a number of missing children were discovered in the village of Nithari, India on the outskirts of Noida, a planned industrial township in Uttar Pradesh near New Delhi. On December 26, 2006, a rich and politically connected Punjabi businessman, Moninder Singh Pandher, and his servant, Surender Koli, were arrested by the Noida Police on the suspicion of murdering a call girl named “Payal”. Charges under various sections of the Indian Penal Code included rape, murder, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy. Pandher and Koli were sentenced to death on February 13, 2009.


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Events leading to primary investigation

A view of a public place in Noida

On December 2006, two Nithari residents claimed they knew the location of remains belonging to children who had gone missing in the previous two years: the municipal water tank behind house D5. Both had daughters who had disappeared, and they suspected Surender Koli, the domestic help at D5, had something to do with the disappearances. The residents claimed they had been repeatedly ignored by local authorities, therefore they sought the help of former Resident Welfare Association (RWA) President S C Mishra. That morning, Mishra and the two residents searched the tank drain, and one of the residents claimed to have found a decomposed hand, after which they called the police. By the time police arrived, local residents claimed they had found three partial skeletons in the drain.[1]

Anxious parents of the missing children rushed to Nithari with photographs. Koli, under the alias Satish, later confessed to killing six children and a 20-year-old call girl known as “Payal” after sexually assaulting them.[2]

The residents alleged that the police were corrupt and involved with the rich people. Demands were made for an independent probe into the matter. One of the residents asserted that the police were claiming credit for discovering the bodies when it was the residents who dug them up. The police denied having found fifteen bodies. They reiterated that they had discovered skulls, bones and other body parts, and said they were unable to give a figure for the number of victims. The victims’ identities and number could only be established with DNA tests. The police then sealed the house and did not allow news media anywhere near the scene of crime.[2]

The Central government tried to ascertain the facts behind the discovery of the skeletal remains and whether it had “inter-state ramifications”.[3] Law and order is a state’s subject but the Home ministry asked for details about the magnitude of the crime.[3]

It was later revealed by the media that Pandher was picked up by the police on December 26 and Koli on December 27 in connection with the disappearance of “Payal”. After Koli’s confession, the police claimed to have started digging up the nearby land area and discovered the children’s bodies.[4]

Two policemen were suspended on December 31 in connection with the serial murders as angry residents charged the house of the alleged mastermind. The policemen were suspended for dereliction of duty in the wake of the allegations by the locals that the police had refused to take any action when they were informed about a number of children missing.[5]

The situation at Nithari got aggravated as an irate mob of villagers fought pitched battles with the police, both pelting stones at each other, just outside the residence of the accused. The police also detained a maid named Maya whom they suspected had a hand in procuring women for the businessman. As more body parts were dug out from near the premises of the house, hundreds of local residents descended on the spot and alleged that there was an organ trade angle to the grisly killings of young children.[2] A doctor living close to the Pandher residence, Navin Choudhary, had been under police suspicion a few years prior in connection with an alleged kidney racket at his hospital. Searches were conducted throughout the properties owned by him, and the investigators could not derive any information to support the claim.[6]

Primary investigation

On January 1, 2007, the remand magistrate granted the police custody of the two until January 10, 2007, as the investigators said that further interrogation was required to complete the recovery of victims’ remains. The court also granted permission for Narco Analysis.[7] On the same evening, police conducted a raid on Pandher’s Chandigarh residence. His wife and son were interrogated and questions were asked about Pandher’s habits. Police sources disclosed that their relationship with him was “strained”, which was later found untrue. His behaviour was “normal”. A senior police inspector revealed that there would be a series of searches conducted at Pandher’s Ludhiana farmhouse and nearby places. The recent child kidnapping cases in Chandigarh—Pandher’s hometown—were re-opened and nothing was found.[8][9]

It was on the next day that 15 of the 17 skeletons discovered in the village were identified. Ten of them were identified by Koli when he was confronted with the photographs of the missing children. Five others were identified by family members after being shown belongings recovered from the scene.[10] The torsos of the bodies were missing and the investigating team was looking into possibilities of the motivation of the killings to be that of organ trade. The police said that there were at least 31 child victims.[11]

Security was increased as police expected more disturbance, following two days of violence near Pandher’s residence. In a press statement, Chief Justice of India Y. K. Sabharwal asserted that the investigation was at a preliminary level, and neither the courts nor the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) were involved at that point.[4][12]

Inquiry committee report

The Central Government, however, constituted a high-level inquiry committee to go into the police lapses, during the period of reporting and investigation. Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav said that he would await the report of the committee looking into the issue before making the decision whether there should be a CBI probe into the matter. The committee is headed by the Joint Secretary, Women and Child Development Ministry, Manjula Krishnan. Under the terms of the reference,

  • This committee would take stock of the efforts made by the Noida police in locating the children who went missing.
  • It would assess the level of cooperation and assistance provided by the local administration, to locate the missing children and unite them with their families.
  • It would go through the modus operandi and the motives of the accused.[9][13][14]

The panel met the parents of the victims to record their statements even as the police determined that out of the 17 confirmed people killed, 10 were girls. Parents of eight of the sexually abused children were given compensation of Rs. 12 lakh. The DNA samples from the human remains were sent to forensic laboratory in Hyderabad for the identification of the victims while forensic samples were sent to the laboratory in Agra for determining the age, cause of death and other details. It was determined that Payal was the only victim identified as adult in this case, with all other 11 victims below the age of 10.[15] Seven of the eight families that had been provided compensation of Rs. 2 lakh on January 3, 2007 returned their cheques in protest. However, the cheques were soon returned back to them. They demanded houses and jobs in compensation as well.[9]

After reeling under a lot of relentless pressure and public outcry, the Uttar Pradesh Government suspended two superintendents of police and dismissed six policemen for dereliction of duty. This action followed the report by the four-member committee.[16][17] On January 17, 2007 the inquiry committee submitted its reports severely indicting the Uttar Pradesh police for “gross negligence” in handling the cases of missing persons. The committee said that the local administration was negligent and irresponsible while dealing with the missing persons reports and did not rule out organ trade as a possible motive behind the killings.[18]

Call girl angle

The two accused in the case were already in police custody while the skeletal remains of the young children were being unearthed from behind and in front of Pandher’s residence. An FIR had been filed on October 7, 2006. Investigations revealed that Payal’s cellphone was being used although the SIM card she owned remained inactive. Through digital surveillance, the investigators were able to track down a number of people and could finally reach the man who sold the phone. The rickshaw cart puller affirmed that the phone belonged to someone from the Pandher residence. After the affirmation of the
facts by the witness, Moninder Singh was called for interrogation, which subsequently revealed nothing. His aide and servant, Surender Koli was picked up the next day and he confessed killing the woman and dumping her body behind the house. The police started digging and henceforth recovered the skeletal remains of the missing children instead of Payal.[4]

Nand Lal, the father of the girl – Deepika alias Payal, alleged that the police had threatened and harassed him. He stated that it was because of the court intervention that the police officers registered the FIR. Nand Lal said that he was accused of being a blackmailer and his daughter was called a woman of easy virtue, which was a fact. It was also later found out that Nandlal was his daughter and daughter in law’s Pimp. The girls were handed over to a Madam in Faridabad, who in turn would pay Nand lal a fixed amount of Rs. 30,000 per girl per month.

Suspicions of child pornography racket

The investigating teams seized erotic literature along with a laptop computer connected to a webcam, which immediately raised the apprehensions of the presence of an international child pornography racket. The police also recovered some photographs of Pandher with nude children and foreigners, during his four international visits, which was later discovered to be untrue. It was apprehended that Pandher supplied such pictures abroad and could link him to paedophilia. Later during the investigation it was found the Nude children in the pictures was Pandher’s grand children. There was no link found of child pornography. The laptop and the webcam were later returned to the family, and was classified as a media created rumour.

Suspicions of organ trade and cannibalism

The police initially suspected an organ trade angle as to the motive behind the murders and raided the house of a doctor who lived in the neighbourhood of the prime accused. A team of officials was accompanied by a team of forensic experts to pick up probable evidence for tests. The police revealed that the doctor had been accused of similar crime in the year 1998, although the court had later absolved him in the same year. This was a second raid in a few days.[19] The police was however, cautious with the news reports indicting the accused of cannibalism even before the polygraph tests had barely begun. They were left aghast when they learned that one of the accused had even confessed to the consumption of the victims’ livers and other body parts. Such a possibility was, however, not completely ruled out by the investigating team, considering the amount of brutality the duo had allegedly committed on the victims.[20]

Brain mapping and narco analysis

The accused duo were brought to the Directorate of Forensic Sciences, Gandhinagar city for undergoing a series of medical tests. Brain mapping and polygraph tests were conducted on January 4, 2007[21] and narco analysis five days later.[22] The police director told the scribes that both the accused had been cooperative during the tests and examinations. A senior director of the institute announced the conclusion of the extensive tests and declared that conclusion had been drawn. Surender Kohli had confessed to the crimes and had given his employer a clean chit and his unawareness to kohli’s wrong doings. Surender Kohli also reveled that all deaths had taken place thru strangulation and then Rape them before he would take the bodies to his personal washroom and dismember them. Pandher was declared to be a womanizer and depressed. He had not taken any claim to the killings of the children and Payal. He suffered from alcohol dependency and was very busy with his business.

CBI investigation

After four days of discourse and mounting pressure from the Centre, the Uttar Pradesh government decided to hand over the inquiry to the Central Bureau of Investigation. The notification came after the Department of Personnel and Training, which governs the CBI sent a letter to the state government about making a proper request for a probe by the agency in line with the prescribed norms.[23][24]

The two accused were taken away to the CBI headquarters in New Delhi on the night of January 11, 2007, a day before the investigation was to be transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation.[25] The CBI continued its investigation and discovered three more skulls and human remains at the site of the serial killings. The investigators searched the drains outside the house and found three skulls, believed to be of the children and several body parts, including parts of legs, bones and torso. Several objects were found that are believed to belong to the victims. The exhibits were sealed and forwarded to forensic labs.[26][27]

The Central inquiry committee that investigated the serial killings discovered serious lapses on the part of the police in handling the cases of missing persons. The published report was provided to the CBI to aid the agency in its probe. The reports were incriminating and proclaimed that the local police failed in their duty to admit their complaints over the past two years.[28][29]

The discovery of several polythene bags containing parts of human torsos led the investigators to believe that it was unlikely that the accused had links to illegal organ trade. The CBI team discovered the bags in the drains outside the Pandher residence. After interrogating Surinder Koli, they came to a prima facie conclusion that “he is a psychopath who used to carry out the killings”. Interrogators also said that it was possible that Pandher had no role to play in the murders.[30] The seized materials were sent to laboratory for post-mortem, individualisation and DNA extraction. The materials received from the Uttar Pradesh police were also forwarded for forensic examination. Some liquor bottles, a double-barrel gun, cartridges, mobile phones, photographs, photo albums and a blood-stained grill were handed over to the CBI for extensive examination.[31] Preliminary investigations revealed that the bones w
ere not more than two years old. The CBI also revealed that only fifteen skulls had been found thus far, and not seventeen as claimed by the state police.[32]

A three-member CBI team questioned the kin members of Surendra Koli in the Almora district.[33]

In November 2007, the Supreme Court issued notice to CBI in case on the allegation by a relative of the victim that the investigating agency was trying to shield Moninder Singh Pandher, one of the key accused in the case.


The call girl was the only adult victim in the string of serial murders. Young girls constituted the majority of victims. Post mortem reports of the 17 sets of skulls and bones recovered showed that 11 of the killed were girls. The top doctors of the Noida Government Hospital revealed that there was a “butcher-like precision” in the chopping of the bodies.[34] The post mortem reports revealed that there had been a pattern in the killings.[35] A gory revelation was made by the AIIMS on February 6, 2007. It was also concluded that there were 19 skulls in all, 16 complete and 3 damaged. The bodies had been cut into three pieces before being disposed off by the servant Surender Koli. The CBI sources said that the manservant, after strangling the victims, severed their heads and threw them in the drain behind the house of his employer. Sources also revealed that he used to keep the viscera in a polythene bag before disposing it off in a drain, so as to prevent detection. The skulls and the other remains were forwarded to the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, Hyderabad for further profiling.[36]

Surender Koli and Moninder Singh Pandher

Pandher is an Businessman who studied from 1963-73 at the prestigious Bishop Cotton School in Shimla and graduated from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi. He has been married since 1979 and fathers a son. Pandher has been claimed to be a perfect father and a good provider by the family.[37]


On 12 February 2009, both the accused Moninder Singh Pandher and his domestic help Surinder Koli were found guilty of their crimes, by a special sessions court in Gaziabad. This verdict left the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) red faced, as the CBI had earlier given a clean chit to Moninder Singh Pandher in all its chargesheets. Both the accused Moninder Singh Pandher and his domestic help Surinder Koli were given death sentence on 13 February 2009, as the case was classified as “rarest of rare”.[38][39]


On September 10, 2009, The Allahabad high court acquitted Moninder Singh Pandher and overturned his death sentence.[40] He was not named a main suspect by investigators initially, but was summoned as co-accused during the trial. Pandher faces trial in the remaining 5 killings out of 19, and could be re-sentenced to death if found guilty in any of those killings. The same day Pandher was acquitted, the Allahabad high court upheld the death sentence for Surender Koli, former domestic servant of Pandher. [41]


  1. ^ Sinha, Varun (2006-12-30). “‘We first fished out remains from drain’“. Indian Express. Archived from the original on 2008-10-05. http://www.webcitation.org/5bMDvWkGC. Retrieved 2007-02-27. 
  2. ^ a b c Singh, Onkar (2006-12-29). “Noida: Parents of missing children anxious“. Rediff News. Archived from the original on 2008-10-05. http://www.webcitation.org/5bMAlkbIr. Retrieved 2007-02-27. 
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  11. ^ Organ trade twist to Noida horror, body parts missing“. Sify News. 2007-01-02. http://sify.com/news/fullstory.php?id=14360930. Retrieved 2007-03-08. 
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  14. ^ Noida killings: Centre orders probe“. The Indian Express. 2007-01-04. http://www.indianexpress.com/story/20089.html. Retrieved 2007-03-08. 
  15. ^ UP govt panel meets victims’ parents“. Sify News. 2007-01-03. http://sify.com/news/fullstory.php?id=14361871. Retrieved 2007-03-08. 
  16. ^ Noida serial killings: 6 policemen sacked“. Sify News. 2007-01-03. http://sify.com/news/fullstory.php?id=14362130. Retrieved 2007-03-08. 
  17. ^ UP sacks six police personnel in Nithari case“. The Indian Express. 2007-01-04. http://www.indianexpress.com/story/20065.html. Retrieved 2007-03-08. 
  18. ^ Nithari case: Central probe indicts UP cops“. Rediff news. http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/jan/17noida.htm. Retrieved 2007-07-16. 
  19. ^ Police raid Noida doctor’s home“. Yahoo! News. 2007-01-06. http://in.news.yahoo.com/070106/43/6aw61.html. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  20. ^ Pradhan, Sharat (2007-01-06). “Noida police cautious about cannibalism theory“. Rediff News. http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/jan/06noida6.htm. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  21. ^ Noida killers undergo brain-mapping tests“. Rediff News. 2007-01-07. http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/jan/07noida.htm. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  22. ^ Pandher undergoes narco-analysis“. The Indian Express. 2007-01-09. http://www.indianexpress.com/sunday/story/20558.html. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  23. ^ UP issues notification for CBI probe into Noida killings“. Rediff News. 2007-01-09. http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/jan/09noida4.htm. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  24. ^ Centre wants CBI probe request in proper format“. The Indian Express. 2007-01-10. http://www.indianexpress.com/sunday/story/20559.html. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
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  37. ^ Portraits of the ‘murderers’. http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print.aspx?Id=a7a392c9-581f-4c68-87c5-cb740e618704. Retrieved 2009-02-14
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  40. ^ Mohinder Singh Pandher acquitted in Nithari murder cases. http://www.morungexpress.com/national/32977.html. 
  41. ^ Mohinder Singh Pandher acquitted in Nithari murder cases. http://www.morungexpress.com/national/32977.html. 

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