Police confirm key suspect in alleged murder arrested in India

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<p><figcaption class=Photograph: Qld/AAP Police

A key suspect in a lengthy Queensland murder investigation has been arrested in New Delhi, India, less than a month after being offered a large reward for his position.

Toyah Cordingley, then 24, was found dead on Wangetti beach, north of Cairns, in 2018 after what police described as a “personal and intimate attack”. She had gone out for a walk with her dog.

Earlier this month, Queensland Police offered a record $1 million reward for locating and apprehending a key suspect, 38-year-old Rajwinder Singh, who police say has fled to India. An extradition order has been in force since 2021.

On Friday, police confirmed that a man had been arrested in India following a “major investigation into Cordingley’s tragic death in far north Queensland”.

Related: Cairns gathers for Toyah Cordingley as the Indian police step up their search for the alleged killer

Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan praised the force and partner agencies for the “hard work they have put in” over four years.

“They were relentless, they never gave up,” he told the media.

“Hundreds of officers and thousands of hours and millions of reasons and a billion eyes around the world are helping us bring Toyah justice.

“Today we have taken a significant step for justice. I know people are excited about this development and I know people are relieved.

Ryan warned it was “early days” in the next steps forward, with suspicions he will face court in India before being subjected to extradition proceedings in Australia.

She said she only recently spoke to Cordingley’s parents, who still had a “great desire for closure.” “I’m sure they would be very supportive of today’s announcement,” she said.

New Delhi Police said in a statement that Singh was arrested in Delhi on Friday at 6am local time and would appear in court “for further proceedings”.

Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the suspect’s arrest would go down in history as “one of those famous police homicide investigations”.

He said the suspect had traveled to India following Cordingley’s murder on Oct. 23, 2018 and was in hiding until his arrest by Indian law enforcement.

“Even though it’s been four years, I’m so glad we can make more progress to bring closure to his family,” she said, describing her initial feelings after the arrest as “exhilaration and relief.”

“Happiness for the family but also bittersweet sadness for the family… He’s never coming back,” she said.

“I come from that part of the world up there in Far North Queensland and I know how deeply this has affected that close-knit community, a safe and secluded area that has witnessed this terrible crime.

“It has outraged all Queenslanders. She was a beautiful person, much loved, who innocently confined himself to her day ”.

Carroll said “few details” about the run-up to the arrest and more information will come to light in the coming days, including whether the $1 million reward will be claimed.

“If it led to this person being arrested, I will gladly write that check myself,” she said.

“I’m very confident that we have a solid case to bring before the courts… when you’re chasing someone that long in another part of the world, I have complete knowledge of what happened.

“It was never a question of if, just when this day would come.”

The Cairns community has been active in trying to draw attention to the case and in pushing for Singh’s extradition to Australia.

Posters and bumper stickers with Cordingley’s name emblazoned with sunflowers, which were his favorite flower and have become a symbol of his case, are seen throughout the city.

Police in India told the Guardian earlier this week that they believed they were closing in on Singh and were concentrating efforts in the village of Buttar Sivia near Amritsar, where Singh was born and where his parents still live and work as farmers.

“His parents are here but have not met him since 2018, this is confirmed,” said Swapan Sharma, superintendent of police in Amritsar. “We are looking at every angle. It’s a matter of time, he’ll get caught.

“We interviewed mainly his relatives, old associates and other people known to him. So far we have no clue as to his whereabouts.

Police said it appeared that Singh had not returned to that village.

“We have kept our sources in and around the village to inform us if it should come up there,” said Lovepreet Singh, the Amritsar police inspector. “The locals are also very interested in informing us about him because of the reward money on him.”

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