A man has been arrested in India over the murder of a young woman found dead on a tropical northern Australian beach four years ago.
The body of Toyah Cordingley, 24, was discovered in October 2018 after what has been called a “frenzied and brutal and sadistic” attack.
Earlier this month the Queensland government put up a A$1m (£563,000; $676,487) reward for information. It led to the arrest of Rajwinder Singh – the man accused of killing Toyah. Queensland police said he was arrested in Delhi by Indian officers on Friday and was expected to face an extradition court hearing soon. He will then be brought to Australia to face criminal proceedings.
“It was never a question of if, but when this day would come,” Queensland police commissioner Katarina Carroll said. “I am very confident we have a strong case to put before the courts.” Mr Singh, who was working as a nurse, left behind his job, wife and their three children when he fled Australia hours after Toyah’s body was discovered. He was pictured at Sydney’s international airport.
Detectives have offered few details about how Toyah died. She had gone to Wangetti Beach, between the popular tourist hotspots of Cairns and Port Douglas, to walk her dog on 21 October 2018, but never came home. Her body was discovered by her father the next day, half buried in sand dunes.
Earlier this month Australian authorities appealed for the public’s help in an international hunt to find Mr Singh.
Originally from Buttar Kalan in the Indian state of Punjab, at the time of the killing he was living in Innisfail, about two hours from the crime scene. Commissioner Carroll said she understood Mr Singh had been avoiding arrest in Punjab since he fled.
The Australian government sought an extradition order in March 2021 – something Indian officials agreed to last month. But they had been unable to locate the 38-year-old until now. A detective from Queensland police has recently returned from India and Australian media report that five Queensland police officers who speak Hindi and Punjabi have been receiving information via WhatsApp.
When the A$1m reward was announced earlier this month, Toyah’s father, Troy Cordingley said his daughter was ” a young woman who will never get the chance to live a full life and all that entails… this was taken away from her”.
“While justice will not bring Toyah back, justice is the very least that she deserves.”
The reward is the highest ever offered in Queensland. Commissioner Carroll said that if it transpired that information which led to the arrest was eligible for the reward, she would “happily write out the cheque myself”. She praised cooperation with the Indian police, which she said had been “exceptional”.
Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan said the arrest had been “a long time coming”.
“This is very early days in the next stage of delivering justice for Toyah,” he said. “I know people are excited about this development and I know people are relieved.”