As the wheels of TK726 touched the tarmac at Tribhuvan International Airport on Wednesday morning, a victim’s family’s long quest for justice finally came to an end. In the plane was Leela Raj Gautam, a convicted rapist/murderer who had managed to flee to the United States, closing a case which lasted 19 long years.
The case, a grueling rape and subsequent murder incident dates back to the year 2000 – Leela Raj Gautam and two accomplices Manoj Khadka and Sita Ram Khadka had raped and strangled a young girl to death in a jungle in Jhapa. The trio then fled the scene of crime after hanging the dead girl’s body on a tree to suggest suicide. The incident had occurred in October, 2000 at Charali Forest, Jhapa.
After the incident, the victim’s father registered a case with the district police, and the trio were arrested, and legal proceedings began. In 2001, the district court found the three ‘not guilty’, therefore ordering their release. The father moved the Appellate Court – the verdict was the same. In a last attempt to avail justice, the father then appealed at the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court found the three guilty and ordered them all to serve a life sentence – unfortunately, Gautam had already fled to the United States.
Nepal Police then coordinated with Interpol to arrest Gautam – he was arrested in 2018 from Miami. While being kept in custody, a long process to repatriate him back to Nepal was initiated.
He was brought back to Nepal on Wednesday and presented before the Kathmandu District Court on the same day. The court has remanded him to Prison Office Dillibazar, and Gautam will serve his sentence.