London 2012: Paralympic Village death of Nepali disabled activist sparks probes


Activists in Nepal are calling for a full investigation into the death of a disabled member of the Nepal National Paralympic Committee (NPC), whose body was found hanging inside the Paralympic Village.

Man Bahadur Lopchan, who played a major part in establishing the Paralympic movement in Nepal, was found in a room in the village in the early hours of 11 September, less than 36 hours after the London 2012 closing ceremony.

He was taken by ambulance to the Royal London Hospital, but had fallen into a coma and is believed to have died a week later, although the hospital has been unable to confirm any details.

Police who attended the scene have so far treated his death as “non-suspicious”, but friends, disabled colleagues and relatives of Lopchan, a leading figure in several Nepali disabled people’s organisations, want full investigations in both Nepal and Britain.

Nepalese authorities are also believed to be investigating the disappearance of two members of their London 2012 delegation, who failed to arrive at the airport for their flight home from the UK last month.

In a statement, Lopchan’s son, Santa, said the family only found out about his father’s death through an article in a Nepali newspaper.

He said his father had phoned his family in Nepal during the Paralympics and told them that he believed his life was in danger.

He said: “How could it be possible for a wheelchair-user to hang on the rope whereas he needs at least two personal attendants to move from his wheelchair?”

An International Paralympic Committee (IPC) spokesman said they were aware of concerns around Lopchan’s death and the Nepali delegation, but that “at the moment there is no reason to suspend the Nepal NPC”.

He said the IPC did not know how many, if any, members of the Nepali delegation had so far failed to return to Nepal.

He said: “We are trying to gather the whole facts. We are writing a letter to the NPC, saying give us your side of the case. At the moment, we have a lot of people saying different things.

“Technically, the members who have disappeared have done nothing wrong. The accreditation that they had meant they can stay in the UK until 4 November. At the moment they are not illegally in the UK until 4 November.”

But he said the IPC also wanted to know why the Nepali delegation had left the UK when Lopchan was still lying in a coma in hospital.

He said: “If they knew this had happened, why did they all depart [the country]? He wasn’t dead on the day they left, because he was in a coma for quite a while.”

A spokesman for the Nepali embassy in London said they had been in contact with the police and the London 2012 organising committee LOCOG about Lopchan’s death.

He said: “Obviously the embassy is concerned about this. If something is going on, if somebody claims something, we obviously want to know the truth. It should be investigated by the police and we are ready to support them.”

He said embassy staff had read in a Nepali newspaper that some of the members of the Nepal NPC might be missing, but added: “We tried to find out [but couldn’t]. We don’t have any information about persons missing or not.”

He said the embassy had not spoken to the Nepal NPC about the claims.

The Metropolitan police said in a statement: “The inquest into the death will be heard at Waltham Forest Coroners Court.

“All evidence will be heard in court and we would encourage the family to contact us, the Coroners Court or their Embassy regarding any concerns which they have.”

A LOCOG spokesman said its insurers had liaised with Lopchan’s family to make arrangements for the repatriation of his body, which would happen “imminently”, and added: “Our thoughts are with the family.”

He said: “We are not aware that any Nepal NPC officials or members are unaccounted for. This would be a matter for the Home Office.”

A spokeswoman for the coroner confirmed that an inquest into Lopchan’s death was opened and adjourned on 24 September.

A Home Office spokesman said it did not comment on individual immigration cases.

18 October 2012