Bhubaneswar, Jan 24:
Gladys Staines, widow of Graham Staines, who was killed along with his two minor sons by religious fundamentalists in 1999, arrived here on Friday to depose as a witness in her husband’s murder case.
Graham Staines, an Australian Christian missionary was burnt to death along with his two sons Philip (10) and Timothy (6) by a gang of Hindu radicals while they were sleeping in his station wagon at Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district on the night of January 22, 1999.
A Bajrang Dal activist, Dara Singh, was convicted of leading the gang that murdered Graham Staines and his sons and was sentenced death by the Bhubaneswar district and sessions court. The Orissa High Court, however, later commuted the sentence to life in prison. Singh is now lodged in the Baripada jail.
Staines had been working among the tribal poor and leprosy patients in Mayurbhanj district since 1965.
Some Hindu groups alleged that Staines had forcibly converted or lured many Hindus into Christianity.
Staines’ widow Gladys has denied these allegation. She continued to live in India caring for leprosy patients until she returned to Australia in 2004.
In 2005, she was awarded the fourth highest civilian honour in India, Padma Shree, in recognition of her work with leprosy patients in Odisha.