The alleged ringleader of the gang rape of a Delhi student which sparked mass anger and protests across India has apparently hanged himself in prison, awaiting trial.
Ram Singh, who allegedly drove the bus where five other men lay in wait for the student and her male friend, hanged himself with his clothes, according to the chief of police at Tihar jail.
The five men were facing a possible death penalty for rape, murder and abduction. The sixth, a juvenile, is being tried separately.
Waves of protest have swept across India since the attack on December 16
Singh's lawyer, A P Singh, confirmed his client's death, saying he died at 5:30 am, but insinuated he had been murdered.
"What do you mean killed himself? He has been killed in prison," Singh told reporters. He has previously accused police of torturing the men in jail.
"It is not possible he committed suicide," he said. "And the theory that he used his own clothes can't be true as there is high security inside the prison.
"My clients are terrified, scared, they fear for their safety."
During the rape, the victim was attacked by six men on a bus. A metal rod was inserted in her body as the bus drove around for 40 minutes. The sustained attack resulted in the removal of almost all of her intestines.
The victim and a male friend, who was also attacked, were thrown from the bus while it was still moving. Police in Delhi said the bus then tried to mow them down.
The unidentified woman died after suffering multiple organ failure and a heart attack.
Sunil Gupta, spokesman for Tihar Jail said Singh had three cellmates who were "clueless about his intention to commit suicide. They were sleeping when the incident happened.
"I am aware media channels are accusing jail authorities for negligence but I deny this allegation. There are guards outside every ward here in Tihar.
"Ram Singh's ward, too, had sufficient guards. It is not possible to have guards outside every single jail."
- 'Castrate Them & Carve "I Am A Rapist" Onto Their Foreheads': India's Gulabi Gang Demands Justice For Late Rape Victim
Prison officials have launched an inquiry into his death.
Singh's father said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the family, too, doubted the official version of events. "I had met him six days back," said father Mange Lal.
"He said the authorities are not treating him well."
He also noted that Singh couldn't use one of his hands efficiently since an accident several years ago.
Tihar's spokesman has said the prisoners in the rape case have been treated properly and confirmed that authorities believe it was a suicide.
If you've been affected by the issues in this article, please call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.