LONDON // A 20-year-old Briton branded himself a "psycho" when he appeared in court yesterday charged with the apparently racist killing of an Indian student.
Anuj Bidve, 23, who had enrolled at a UK university three months ago, was shot dead on the streets of Manchester in the early hours of December 26.
He and eight friends from Lancaster University were walking back to their hotel during a Christmas trip to the city, in north-west England.
Police charged 20-year-old Kiaran Mark Stapleton with the murder on Sunday. Yesterday, he appeared before Manchester magistrates and four armed officers were posted around the room.
When the defendant, dressed in a Nike T-shirt and grey jogging trousers, was asked to confirm his name, he replied: "Psycho. Psycho Stapleton." He was remanded in custody pending a hearing before a higher court today, which will consider any bail application.
According to Mr Bidve's friends, a young white man crossed the road and approached him. He asked for the time and when the student failed to respond immediately, he pulled a handgun from his pocket and shot him in the side of the head at point-blank range.
Police described the incident as a "hate crime" possibly motivated by race. Mr Bidve's family in Pune, Maharashtra, believe the killing could only have been racially driven.
The family's ordeal was made worse when news of the shooting was posted on Facebook 18 hours before the authorities contacted them to inform them that Mr Bidve, who was studying micro-electronics, was dead.
Two officers from Greater Manchester police, who flew to India over the weekend, yesterday met the student's parents, Subhash and Yogini, to inform them of the state of the investigation into their son's murder.
On Friday, the police issued a public apology to the parents over the delay in telling them about the shooting.
Assistant Chief Constable Dawn Copley, who is in charge of the investigation, said "exhaustive" efforts had been made to contact the family before news of it appeared on Facebook. She added: "No one should hear such tragic news in this way."
Mr Bidve's father, a retired India Air Force official, described his son as "so humble, very brilliant ... a very nice guy" in an interview with the BBC. He said his main concern was the return of his son's body after the "trauma" of the past week.
"We are really worried," he added. "All family members are worried. Everyone at home. They are all shattered and waiting for his remains to do all the religious things."
Ms Copley said: "We know that the family is extremely distressed that Anuj's body has not been released to them. We have been in close contact with the coroner, who is anxious to release Anuj's body to his family at the earliest possible time.
"This remains a complex investigation and the fact we have charged someone does not mean the investigation is complete. As such, we are still asking for the public to contact us with any information they may have and there remains a £50,000 (Dh284,515) reward outstanding."
On the dispatch of two Manchester officers to India, Ms Copley said: "We felt it was important to make personal contact with the family and offer them every support we could at this difficult time. We need to explain to them in person where we are up to in the investigation."
Members of the family is expected to arrive in the UK tomorrow. In an interview with the Sunday Times, Anuj Bivde's sister, Nehal Bidve-Sonawane, said her brother had decided to study in England because the family felt he would be safe there.
"We had two options, which were Australia and the UK, but after the racial attacks recently in Australia, we thought the UK would be safer," she said. "My parents were initially hesitant in sending him abroad to further his studies. He's the only son and they were a bit possessive about him."
Mrs Bidve-Sonawane said her parents could see no explanation for the killing other than it being a random, racist attack.
Hundreds of people were due to attend a candlelit memorial service for Mr Bivde in Manchester last night. Hundreds of others were expected at a peace march for him in India, starting near Nehru Park in New Delhi and finishing at the British High Commission.
Friends also organised a candlelight vigil at India Gate in New Delhi on Monday, calling on the British and Indian governments to provide financial compensation for the Bidve family, and demanding the speedy repatriation of the body to India.
Suyash Deep Rai, 26, who was a post-graduate student at Lancaster University where Mr Bivde was studying, took part in the march and remembered him fondly, saying he was a good sportsman who played cricket and volleyball.
"He was most interested in his studies," said Mr Rai who, like the student's family, first heard of his friend's fate through messages posted on Facebook.
* Suryatapa Bhattacharya contributed to this report from New Delhi.