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India rape suspect was 'ready to accept punishment'

Ram Singh was a heavy-drinking migrant ready to accept his punishment for taking part in the gang-rape of a young Indian woman, according to his family and neighbours.

NEW DELHI // Ram Singh was a heavy-drinking migrant ready to accept his punishment for taking part in the crime, according to his family and neighbours.

He was accused by police of presiding over the gang-rape.

Along with his younger brother Mukesh - another of the six suspects on trial - Singh moved to the capital in the early 1990s from their village in Rajasthan state.

The family found a place in the Ravi Dass Camp slum - a maze of narrow lanes, open drains and mud-and-brick houses with corrugated metal rooftops - while the brothers looked for jobs as bus drivers or labourers.

"He made a mistake - he admitted that to us - but even God forgives one mistake," said Singh's distraught mother, Kalyani Devi, after hearing of his death in Tihar Jail. "He was not even given a chance to repent," she sobbed, despite the fact that Singh, along with his co-accused, had denied all charges.

On the night of the attack, December 16, the suspects had allegedly gathered at the family home for dinner and drinks before taking the bus for a joyride, luring on board passengers who mistook the vehicle for genuine public transport.

After her male friend was beaten up, the victim was repeatedly raped before being sexually assaulted with an iron bar, causing severe internal injuries that claimed her life 13 days later.

Some neighbours described Singh, who was slightly built with narrow, slanting eyes, as a troublemaker whose drinking had gotten worse after his wife's death in 2008.

"They used to drink and get into fights with people," said Kajal, a 21-year-old college student who lived next door to the Singh brothers.

"When I got to know about his death this morning, I felt nothing. He would have died anyway. It is just that he decided to end his life a little earlier."

Singh's father Mange Lal said his son had been resigned to facing the death penalty when sentences are handed down by the court, which has been hearing the case since January.

"My son told me that he was ashamed by what had happened on 16 December. He said that he would accept whatever punishment was given to him by the court," he said.

Singh leaves behind a young boy aged four or five whom he legally adopted, neighbours said. The child is thought to be the son of Singh's late wife from a previous relationship.

Singh was the first of the accused to be arrested when police pulled over the private bus allegedly used in the attack, which was normally used to ferry schoolchildren.

Detectives'found the seats of the bus had been freshly cleaned.

Singh had once previously entered the public limelight when he appeared on a reality TV show in 2010. On the programme the widower was publicly accused by a former employer of drink driving and irresponsible behaviour.