London: Former India captain Sardar Singh was interrogated by Yorkshire Police for nearly four hours in Leeds on Monday in relation to a year-old sexual assault case.
Sardar was accompanied by the team’s manager-cum-assistant coach Jugraj Singh and an Indian-origin lawyer at the Leeds District Police Headquarters at Elland Road. The complainant, an England international hockey player of Indian origin, accused Sardar of sexual assault and alleged that he went back on his promise to marry her.
Sardar has pleaded innocence and during a marathon interrogation, put forth his side of the story. Sardar left for London later in the evening and is likely to feature in India’s crucial Hockey World League Semifinals group stage match against the Netherlands on Tuesday.
This is the second time Sardar has been questioned by the police in middle of a tournament regarding the same case. During the Hockey World League Semifinal in Antwerp in June 2015, the complainant accused Sardar of physically assaulting her.
She called the Antwerp police at the team hotel, where he was questioned. However, he was let go. In January 2016, she had levelled similar allegations against Sardar in an FIR filed with the Ludhiana Police last year. However, in May 2016, a Special Investigation Team formed by Ludhiana Police Commissioner JS Aulakh gave Sardar the clean chit.
Fearing these consequences, Sardar was not included in the Indian squad for last year’s Champions Trophy, which was held in London as well. However, he was included this time after assuring the team management that the issue was resolved. The complainant, who has represented England at junior level, approached the Leeds police on Saturday.
“I had filed complaints with the Punjab Police last year but there was no action. After they gave Sardar the clean chit, I decided to approach UK Police and I filed the complaint on Saturday morning with the Leeds Police, which come under West Yorkshire Police.
I have filed the video complaint on the offences of rape and domestic violence committed by Sardar from January 2013 to January 2016,” the complainant, a Leeds resident, told The Indian Express.
The Leeds police first got in touch with the Indian team management hours before the match against Pakistan on Sunday. With India having a rest day on Monday, the cops summoned him to Leeds. According to sources, Sardar was informed about it only after the match, which India won 7-1. Jugraj, who is an officer with Punjab Police, accompanied him to Leeds, roughly five-hour drive from London. He was questioned by Leeds Police deputy commissioner Claire Comiskey. The questioning was held in Punjabi via a translator.
Hockey India and the team management fumed over the timing of the interrogation, slamming the authorities for summoning the player to another city in middle of a tournament. “It is unfortunate that a player of the Indian hockey team is called in this manner by the England authorities. Such incidents harass players. Sardar’s focus has been on playing in the World Hockey league Semifinals and he is eager to give his best on field,” Jugraj, who wasn’t allowed inside the interrogation room, told this newspaper from Leeds.
“We told them about the details of the inquiries conducted by Punjab Police and stressed that all the allegations are false. We will fully corporate the police. Right now, though, Sardar and the team’s focus is on the game against Netherlands.”