Dipendra was innocent: witness

In a new twist to the controversy surrounding the 2001 royal palace massacre, a Nepalese soldier claiming to be an eyewitness to the tragedy has said Crown Prince Dipendra, blamed for the ghastly act, was killed before the rest of his family members on the fateful Friday night.

Dipendra was first killed on the June one, 2001 at the royal palace before his father King Birendra and mother Aishwarya died of gunshots during a dinner party, Lal Bahadur Lamteri told Nepali language Naya Patrika daily.

The paper also questioned the official probe commission's report holding Dipendra responsible for the killings. Most of the Nepalese people also do not back the official version and believe that there was a conspiracy involved to eliminate the royal family following which the last King Gyanendra succeeded his brother Birendra to the throne.

Lamteri, a junior army staff deputed at the Narayanhiti Palace during the period, claimed that Paras, son of ousted King Gyanendra and cousin brother of Dipendra, came to the palace dinner party that night accompanied by a person wearing a Dipendra look-alike mask.

The masked man shot dead Dipendra before other royal family members were killed, he told the daily.

Lamteri claimed that he saw Dipendra, who got six bullet shots on his back and one on the left hand, in an inebriated state in his private room before the royal family was killed.

Lamteri said he along with some other security staff also sent an unnamed letter to the palace saying that Dipendra was innocent. But three months later, he was transferred to another battalion with demotion and then sent to jail on a "false" murder case of a businessman, the daily reported.

According to the controversial probe commission report, Dipendra, under the influence of alcohol, killed King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya and other members of the royal family before committing suicide.

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