BY STEPHEN FARRELL IN KATHMANDHU
CROWN PRINCE Dipendra of Nepal had been serving drinks to his family moments before he massacred them, according to the first eyewitness account of the slaughter.
The Eton-educated heir to the throne then left the family’s regular Friday night gathering, changed into combat fatigues and returned with two automatic weapons, which he fired for 15 minutes. He remained silent and expressionless throughout, a relative of a survivor said.
The first to die was Dipendra’s father, King Birendra, who fell to the ground with a look of "utter astonishment" on his face. Nine other victims followed, including his mother and younger brother who were shot when Dipendra went out into the garden, where he eventually turned his gun on himself."It’s unbelievable. The Crown Prince shot everybody," the relative said.
"Every Friday night the family gets together. Friday was nothing special, it wasn’t to discuss anything about this girl that he wanted to marry. It was a routine Friday night and it all went wrong.
"They hadn’t even sat down to dinner, they had just had the first drinks. Crown Prince Dipendra was actually tending the bar and there appeared to be nothing wrong with him at all. One cousin went to the bar and asked him for a drink, which he served her. The cousin didn’t pick up anything about him being upset.
"The get-together continued in the place where they usually meet, a largish room with a billiard table and a couple of rooms adjoining it. His Majesty King Birendra was in one of the adjoining rooms.
"As far as arguments about the girl, or him being told he could no longer be king if he married her or would be stripped of his title, nothing was said at the time."
Crown Prince Dipendra then left the room, according to the account, but no one realised that anything was wrong — even when he returned in combat fatigues. "He went out of the room and came back in army uniform with his cap pulled very low over his eyes and with two weapons in his hands," the relative said.
The witness did not recall seeing any handguns, but said that one — apparently an Uzi machine pistol — was not even recognisable as a gun because it had a muzzle on one side and a black box on the other, which they were later told was a carrying case. The relative said the Crown Prince went straight to the adjoining room where his father was sitting and opened fire.
"The witness heard the shooting but was so stunned that they thought ‘Is this some new kind of game we are playing?’.
"They didn’t really understand what was going on until they realised the king had been hit. From the adjoining room, through the open door, one witness told of seeing the King’s face with utter astonishment on it.
"The eyewitness said the Prince was not able to control the gun, it being an automatic, and it began firing upwards, so he was shooting at the roof so that bits of the ceiling fell down.
"He said nothing at all throughout the whole episode, which probably took less than 15 minutes, and there was no expression whatever on his face. He did the shooting, then came out of the room. At that point the Queen and his younger brother, Prince Nirajan, went after him into the garden and that’s when they got shot.
"The Crown Prince then came back in again and Prince Dhirendra, his brother, went toward him and told him: ‘Put the gun down, you have done enough damage’ Dhirendra was shot and fatally wounded, dying in hospital on Monday. As he lay bleeding, two of the King’s female cousins knelt over him to help, and were themselves shot.
"One of the women was talking to Dhirendra," the source said. "He knew that he had been shot and said ‘If you reach into my pocket, there is a mobile telephone, we can telephone for help’. But the cousin couldn’t do it because she appeared to be injured in both arms. The Crown Prince just fired indiscriminately, then went outside again and the party heard some shooting. At that time they thought military aides were getting shot, but that must have been the time he shot himself."
Once the killer was incapacitated, the source said, people arrived on the scene and began shouting "This one’s dead, that one’s alive."
The survivor’s account emerged after days of official silence in which rumours had multiplied, making insiders determined to set the record straight. They pointed out, however, that questions remained over the circumstances and motivation behind the killings.
Although relatives of witnesses were determined to see the truth come out, one source said, not all had yet been questioned by the royal commission that has been given until Thursday to deliver its findings. The source said: "I understand the mood in this country where everybody thinks it’s a set-up, but in this case it’s unfortunate that the truth wasn’t allowed to come out right at the beginning.
"The facts are quite clear. The family knows the truth, so if there is some kind of whitewash or anything else like that, I am sure that people will speak up.