Suspect in Australia murder arrested in India 4 years later

FILE - In this image made from video provided by the Queensland Police Service, Vanessa Gardiner, mother of Toyah Cordingley, whose body was found on Wangetti Beach of Australia's Queensland on Oct. 22, 2018, speaks in Cairns, Australia in November 2022. The prime suspect in the murder of Cordingley four years ago had been arrested in New Delhi three weeks after he was targeted with a 1 million Australian dollar ($677,000) reward, Australian authorities said Friday. (Queensland Police Service via AP, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The prime suspect in the murder of a woman on an Australian beach four years ago was arrested in New Delhi's outskirts three weeks after he was targeted with a 1 million Australian dollar ($677,000) reward, authorities said Friday.

Indian national Rajwinder Singh, 38, flew from Sydney to his homeland the day after 24-year-old Australian Toyah Cordingley’s body was found on the Queensland state coast on Oct. 22, 2018.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said Singh had been arrested on Friday following Australia’s extradition request to India.

“This matter is a high priority for the Australian government and Australian agencies continue to work closely with Indian authorities to pursue Mr. Singh’s extradition to Australia, to enable him to face justice,” Dreyfus said.

Dreyfus said it was not appropriate for him to comment further because the matter was before the Indian courts.

Australia had applied for Singh’s extradition for murder in March last year but he could not be found.

The Queensland government on Nov. 3 offered the largest reward in the state’s history for information about Singh.

The reward was unique in that it did not seek a clue that solves a crime and leads to a successful prosecution. Instead, the money is offered for information that leads only to a suspect’s location and arrest.

Indian police arrested Singh on the same day they received information about his whereabouts, Australian Federal Police said in a statement.

New Delhi police said in a statement the arrest was made based on intelligence shared by the France-based international policing organization Interpol as well as Australian police.

Singh was arrested at 6 a.m. local time on New Delhi's outskirts on a highway to his home state of Punjab, Indian police said.

He was expected to appear in a New Delhi court later Friday, police said.

India’s external affairs ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on extradition proceedings.

It is not clear whether the reward would be collected.

Singh was “believed to be avoiding apprehension in the Punjab region in India since traveling to the country” in 2018, Australian police said.

Queensland police officers had traveled to India in late October and early November to work with Australian Federal Police posted in New Delhi to share information on Singh with Indian law enforcement.

Singh was employed as a nurse at Innisfail, a town south of the major city of Cairns, when Cordingley was murdered on Wangetti Beach, north of Cairns on Oct. 21, 2018. She had gone to the beach to walk her dog.

The Indian Embassy in Australia could not immediately comment on the case.

Australia and India have had an bilateral extradition treaty in place since 2010, but the process can be slow.

For 13 years, Australia has been pursuing the extradition of Indian national Puneet Puneet, 33, who fled Australia after he was convicted of drunk driving and speeding when he hit and killed one pedestrian and injured another in downtown Melbourne in 2008.

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Associated Press video journalist Prabhjot Gill in Amritsar, India, contributed to this report.