Ajay Kaushal: Riddle of the man accused of plotting a kidnap with Dom Noonan

Ajay Kaushal was arrested by pure chance. One of Britain's most wanted, the Stretford man had fled the country before he was due stand trial accused of the brutal kidnap and torture of a Lancashire businessman.

He sought refuge among the palm trees and tropical beaches of Goa in India. But in October 2009, Kausha's life on the run came crashing down.

The saga went back to 6.30pm on the evening of June 17, 2003, when a Burnley shop owner was snatched from his home on the outskirts of the Lancashire town. He was driven to a secret location in Manchester and held to ransom.

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The victim was then stripped and tortured. Boiling water was poured over his bare legs, he was burnt with cigarettes and punched, kicked and stabbed.

He would be held for 10 hours until £14,000 in cash and a bag full of gold bars, watches and jewellery was handed over by his family at a meeting point off junction nine of the M60 near the Trafford Centre. With the ransom secured the victim was dumped in the street near the Robin Hood pub in Stretford with tape wrapped around his head, wearing nothing but socks and a pair of torn underpants.

The following year eight men - including ringleader Kaushal and notorious Manchester gangster Dominic Noonan - were charged with conspiring to kidnap. But before the case made it to court Kaushal fled.

Dominic Noonan was cleared of any involvement in the kidnap -Credit:MEN Media
Dominic Noonan was cleared of any involvement in the kidnap -Credit:MEN Media

In his absence he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison at Preston Crown Court. Noonan was cleared of any involvement in the plot.

But detectives refused to give up the hunt. Speaking as part of a most wanted appeal in 2009, Det Insp Simon Brooksbank called on the public to help bring Kaushal to justice.

"Kaushal is responsible for an incredibly serious offence, yet although he was sentenced to 15 years in prison he has showed absolute disrespect for the law by refusing to be brought to justice and continuing to live his life as a free man," he said. "We do believe that he has fled the country however, we still think that people living in Manchester and possibly any east Lancashire connections Kaushal may have had could hold vital information about his whereabouts."

Their big break came in October 2009 following the death of Kausal's friend, William Scott, 39, in a hotel room in the village of Colva in Goa on India's south west coast. As part of their investigations local police uncovered Kaushal's identity and past crimes.

"We found Kaushal's identification documents on him, which helped us confirm his identity and corroborate it with Lancashire police," Deputy Police Superintendent Umesh Gaonkar told the press, adding the fugitive would be handed over to British detectives. But, in a series of events a coroner would later describe as 'reading like a crime novel', Kaushal would never again set foot on British soil.

The Foreign Office and Home Office began proceedings to have him extradited. But while awaiting for the case to come to court Kaushal, 50, was found unconscious in his cell in the infamous Sada jail. He was taken to hospital and pronounced dead on March 22, 2010.

His family were convinced his death was suspicious. At his inquest in Manchester, his mother, Jagdish Kaushal, said she spoke to him on the phone just hours before he died.

"He said he was fine," she said. "I think he has been killed. I believe that. It could have been anybody. They could have given him something in his food.”

The court heard that, at the time of his death, the Commonwealth Office had written to the Ministry of External Affairs in India requesting they investigate claims by Kaushal that he had been brutally assaulted by guards. He had started a hunger strike four days before his death because he was not happy with how his case was going.

How the M.E.N. reported Kaushal's death
How the M.E.N. reported Kaushal's death

Expressing frustration at the lack of evidence surrounding his death, with no statements from guards or clear proof of when, where or how Kaushal had died, coroner Nigel Meadows described the case as 'reading like a crime novel'.

Further confusion was caused by inconclusive toxicology reports and evidence from cell mates was inconsistent. It was also unclear why there was a delay in response from guards and what happened at two hospitals where he was treated.

Greater Manchester Police, the jury heard, requested to go to India to carry out enquiries, but were denied permission. Karen Almeida, consular officer for the Commonwealth Office of the UK in Goa, saw Mr Kaushal on the day he died.

"He was angrier than any other time I had seen him," she told the court. "He told me he was on hunger strike but he did not seem irrational and he didn't seem like he wanted to harm himself."

The jury gave an open verdict, with the cause of death as unascertained. Mr Meadows said he would write to the Foreign Office to confirm the result of the inquest and pursue further inquiries into his death.

"This may not be the end of the road if we can get further evidence," the coroner said. "The Indian authorities may be persuaded to co-operate, I don't know."