Rory McCarthy in Kathmandu
Thursday June 7, 2001
Details finally began to emerge last night of how a drunken and bitter
row involving Nepal's crown prince Dipendra led to last Friday's royal
massacre in which he shot dead his father, mother and seven other relatives.
In the first public account of the killings which have shaken the tiny
Himalayan kingdom, Dipendra's uncle Suraj Shamsher Rana described how
the family desperately tried to calm Prince Dipendra minutes before the murders.
More than 20 royals and friends from Kathmandu's elite and extremely
wealthy aristocracy had gathered for dinner at the luxurious Tribhuvan
Sadan dining hall in the Narayanhiti royal palace last Friday.
Dipendra, the 29-year-old Eton-educated heir to the throne, had been
drinking heavily during the evening. For several months he had been
locked in an angry dispute with his mother about his love affair with
Devyani Rana, 22, the daughter of a leading Nepalese politician.
Because Devyani's grandfather was an Indian maharajah the Nepalese queen
opposed the match. She had another potential bride in mind for her son.
Mr Rana, the brother of the late Queen Aishwarya, was not present at
killings, but he has spent the past five days interviewing survivors in the hospital.
From their testimony he pieced together the train of events.
He described how as dinner started the prince began "misbehaving" with
the guests. King Birendra, who was loved by his people and worshipped as an
incarnation of god throughout his 29-year-reign, grew furious at his son's drunken
display and sent the young prince to his room upstairs in disgrace.
Two cousins led the prince upstairs to the first floor, where he had
a lavish apartment,
and tried to calm him down. Just 30 minutes later Dipendra, who collected guns as a hobby,
reappeared at the top of the stairs, dressed in army fatigues and, according to some reports,
with his cap pulled low over his face. He carried an Uzi, an M16 assault rifle and a pistol.
As the dinner party guests sat watching in stunned silence he walked
downstairs, through the dining room and into an adjoining room where the
king and queen were sitting. He raised one gun and fired two shots at
the ceiling, then turned to his father and shot him dead. The king slid
from his chair and collapsed on the floor. One report said doctors found
10 bullet holes in his body.
The guests ran for cover as the prince sprayed the room with bullets.
then ran into the garden to confront his mother, but according to Mr
Rana, his younger brother Nirajan stepped into his path to stop him.
"Don't do it, please. Kill me if you want," he said.
Seconds later Nirajan too was dead, shot at least 17 times, according
to one report.
Dipendra then turned the gun on his mother, the queen, and shot her dead.
The prince's uncle Dhirendra, the king's youngest brother, rushed
forward and stood facing the gun. "You have done enough damage, hand
over the gun now," he told Dipendra. Dipendra shot and seriously injured
him. By Monday Dhirendra too was dead.
As Dipendra stood on the lawn there were bodies strewn around him. The
king and queen were both dead, as was their younger son Prince Nirajan
and daughter Princess Shruti. Two of the king's sisters were dead, as
well as his brother-in-law and cousin.
The Washington Post yesterday quoted an unnamed source who described
during the shooting spree Dipendra showed "no expression whatever on his face.
He just fired indiscriminately".
Apparently in despair Dipendra finally turned the pistol on himself,
shooting himself in the temple. He was seriously injured and after two
days on a ventilator he died in hospital on Monday.
Several others, including the wife of the new king, were injured in
attack and were still recovering in Kathmandu's military hospital last
night. A dozen soldiers armed with sub-machine guns stood guard outside.
The prince's girlfriend, Devyani Rana, left the country the day after
the shootings and is now thought to be in hiding in India.
At least three bodyguards and seven other officers were present in the
royal palace that night, Nepal's Jana Aastha newspaper said yesterday.
But immediately after the killings police officers were prevented from
taking witness statements and doctors were forbidden to conduct
postmortem examinations, the newspaper said.
The crown prince used his mobile phone once after being thrown out of
the dining room and before he returned to begin his shooting rampage,
the paper said. It was not clear who he telephoned.
"I can't believe the crown prince did this of his own accord," Kishor
Shrestha, the newspaper's editor, said last night. "There must have been
someone to inspire him or provoke him to do such a thing. How can a
prince shoot his own family?"
Nepal's 23m people have been stunned by the murders. After two days
rioting, in which two people were killed and 14 injured, a degree of
calm returned to the streets of Kathmandu yesterday.
Police imposed a third curfew last night for six hours to prevent any
further disturbances. Armed with shotguns, rifles and sticks police
gathered in large groups on street corners throughout the day.
The editor and two directors of the leading Kantipur daily newspaper
were arrested after they published an article written by a Maoist leader
which criticised the newly crowned king, Gyanendra, who is the brother
of the late King Birendra.
Maoist rebels have now stepped up their campaign for a peasant rebellion
in recent months. More than 1,700 Nepalese have died since the guerrilla
movement began five years ago.
On the streets of Kathmandu last night thousands of Nepalese knelt to
before photographs of the late king and queen, surrounded by candles and incense.
Many of the men had their heads shaved as a mark of mourning,
Toran Shahi, 23, who prayed before a small altar of flowers set up
outside the gates of the royal palace, said most Nepalese were
struggling to come to terms with the deaths.
"It is completely unimaginable," he said. "With the entire clan gone
is like the main foundation of our country is totally shaken. I cannot
believe the prince did it on his own. It is a puzzle with a lot of missing pieces."
Many Nepalese believe the prince was not acting alone when he launched
his attack, although there has been no evidence so far that others were
involved. An inquiry ordered by King Gyanendra has fallen into disarray
after Nepal's leading opposition politician refused to join the three-man commission.
The king's son, Paras, who was present at the dinner on Friday but
survived unhurt is a potential liability. He was accused by a Nepalese
newspaper last year of killing a popular singer in a hit-and-run
accident, though he was never charged. The king noticeably failed to
make his son crown prince after the coronation this week.
The main players:
King Gyanendra Shah
King Gyanendra, 54, faces a tough challenge holding Nepal together
through a period of growing tension. Gyanendra, 54, is a wildlife expert
with extensive tax-exempt business interests. He dismissed the killings
as an "accident" but has promised a fast and thorough investigation.
Suraj Shamsher Rana
Suraj Rana, brother of the late Queen Aishwarya, has spent the last
visiting his surviving relatives in Kathmandu's military hospital. Last
night he was the first relative to speak out about the killings.
The 26-year-old son of King Gyanendra is not well liked in Nepal, where
he is seen as a gambler and drinker. Last summer there were street
protests after a newspaper accused him of involvement in a hit-and-run
accident in which a Nepalese singer was killed.No charges were brought
against him. The new king has stopped short of naming Paras the crown prince.
Girija Prasad Koirala
The prime minister was close to resigning before the killings and faces
corruption allegations. Now he is struggling to hold his party together
and is under pressure to conduct a quick inquiry into the killings. But
his main political opponent, Madhav Kumar Nepal, has pulled out of the
three-man investigating commission.
The daughter of a former Nepalese foreign and finance minister, Devyani
Rana was Crown Prince Dipendra's girlfriend. She is now in hiding in India.
Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as Comrade Prachanda, leads a Maoist and
republican guerrilla group. Prachanda has described the royal murders as
a "pre-planned massacre."
Just think: without all those guns, he would be just another
child of a national leader with unlimited wealth and power, drowning his
sorrows at the nearest Chuy's.
for more on this, go to
Thanks to Zepp