Australians are furious. Understandably so. All those charges of racism and Ku Klux Klan masks could be a bit exaggerated. In at least two instances, there was no racist motive at all, it looks like.
Jaspreet Singh, 29, of Grice Crescent, Essendon, Melbourne, claimed he was set alight by unknown assailants near his home in the small hours of January 8. He was taken to The Alfred hospital with burns to 15 per cent of his body, affecting his face, arms and hands. The news made international headlines.
But now it turns out he accidentally burned himself while torching his car for an insurance claim.
Detective Senior Constable Danielle O'Keefe of the arson and explosives squad told the court on Tuesday that Singh suffered the burns while trying to torch his 2003 Ford Futura.
"Police inquiries have led us to believe that Mr Singh is in some financial difficulty and that he intended to sell his car but instead stood to gain $11,000 from an insurance claim out of this particular incident," she told the hearing.
O'Keefe said Singh suffered the burns while trying to torch his 2003 Ford Futura. She said arson chemists and hospital staff concluded that the damage to the car, Singh's clothes and his injuries were not consistent with his story.
"Police had obtained security footage depicting Singh buying a 15-litre opaque plastic container and 15.96 litres of petrol on the day before the attack," O'Keefe said.
However, Singh has denied the allegations. His wife has also been questioned about her knowledge of the incident.
Burns were still obvious on Singh's face and neck as he appeared in the court, and he wore pressure bandages on arms.
Through an interpreter, he told the hearing that he and his wife planned a holiday to India, leaving on Feb 20 and returning in late April to visit his child and family.
O'Keefe said while police did not oppose bail it has been noted that Singh was a potential flight risk.
He was granted bail with strict conditions banning him from contacting witnesses and attending points of international departure. He must report to police thrice a week and surrender his passport. He will appear before the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on March 15.
Jaspreet Singh was bailed to appear before the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on March 15.
The murder of 25-year-old Ranjodh Singh in New South Wales last month had also caused some sensation. Eventually though the police arrested three fellow Indians, saying the killing was a result of a private dispute.
An autopsy revealed that Singh, who had been bound and had his throat slashed, had been stabbed many times and was set on fire while he was still alive.
"It certainly was a very horrific scene," Assistant Police Commissioner Mark Murdoch told reporters a few days ago, adding, "Given the injuries that Singh sustained and given the fact that he was set on fire [while] still alive it's probably at the upper end of the scale in terms of murders."
Early 2009, the newly-married young man had left for Australia to work on a farm in Brisbane. His wife had enrolled in a Melbourne college.
Ranjodh would call his Patiala home every day without fail. On December 27 when he didn't call, his family got worried.
''We called his friends and found out he was in a party. Then the police found his body. He had been burnt alive," said Satnam Singh, Ranjodh's brother.
Three people present at that party have been arrested, all Indian nationals. The Australian police say Ranjodh and the accused met during a fruit-picking season in Griffith, NSW.
Slamming the Indian media, and obliquely the Indian government, for making rash comments without verifying facts, Mr. John Brumby, Prime Minister of the state of Victoria, said Wednesday, "So I hope that there is some balance to the debate, some balance to the reporting in India and certainly to date that balance hasn't been there."