Kathmandu: With King Gyanendra's absolute rule having ended in Nepal, demands are being made for a fresh probe into a 25-year-old triple rape and murder case in which influential royal relatives came under suspicion.

Nepal had been shaken by the brutal rape and murder of three students whose killers were never brought to justice.

Known as the infamous "Namita-Sunita hatyakando (Murder of Namita and Sunita)", the incident also included two more killings, says Kishor Shrestha, editor of Jana Aastha weekly, who as a cub journalist in 1991 began investigating the murders and this month published a book on his findings.

The book titled Darbarkando Pachhi Dabayeko Arko Hatyakando (Another Murder Case Suppressed After the Royal Palace Massacre) was released on May 1.

Namita and Sunita Bhandari were sisters who came from a well-connected family in Kathmandu.

In the 1980s, the two sisters and a friend, Neera Parajuli, went for a holiday to Pokhara, a popular tourist destination. The bodies of all three girls were found in the Gandaki River in Pokhara.

Influential people

"An employee of the forest department, Churamani Adhikari, was a witness," says Shrestha. "He was taken to the police station for questioning. The next day, he too was dead."

Four influential people came under suspicion: Prince Dhirendra, younger brother of slain king Birendra and present King Gyanendra; Uday Shumsher, brother of Komal, Gyanendra's wife and the present queen; Neer Shah, a well known film director and actor related to the royal family by marriage, and Binod Shankar Shrestha, owner of an upmarket hotel in Kathmandu.

"In June 2001, King Birendra and his family were massacred in the palace and Gyanendra was sworn in as the new king," says Shrestha. "Just 10 days after his ascension, police authorities were asked to close the case and began dragging their feet on the investigation. The case was closed inconclusively in 2003."

Shrestha said about two months ago he came across police documents and the diary of one of the sisters and decided to write a book.