UMERKOT, July 7 Head of a fact-finding team who visited Thathrai village, 10km from here on Wednesday, to gather facts about murder of three scheduled caste peasants by a landlord's son on Monday have expressed misgivings about police investigation.

According to police, Herchand accompanied by Loono went to meet his landlord Sain Bux Mangrio at his autaq (guest house) near his village and demanded his share in the harvest. Sain Bux flew into a rage and ordered his son Ali Ahmed alias Sadoro to kill them.

The peasants' relatives Ms Tulchhan, Ms Rajbai and Ms Phoolan rushed to the auatq on hearing gunshots and suffered injuries when they tried to save them. Herchand died on the spot and Loono and Ms Tulchhan died in hospitals.

Talking to journalists, the head of the team, Ashuthama of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said that a member of the police investigation team SPO Iqbal Mangrio who was relative of the accused, and some influential political figures of Mangrio community were protecting the accused.

The fact-finding team, which comprises representatives of the HRCP, National Coalition Against Bonded Labour and some NGOs, interviewed heirs of the deceased, police officers, local politicians, journalists, social activists and father of the accused.

Dr Ashuthama demanded rehabilitation and compensation for the bereaved families and proper treatment of the wounded women.

Jalal Bheel, father of late Loono, told the team that Sadoro was not happy with his son's friendship with Herchand and he had issued threats of dire consequences to his son on many occasions.

He said that in the morning of that fateful day his son accompanied Herchand Oad to the landlord's autaq. When Herchand asked him to pay his share in the harvest he flew into a rage and opened fire at them, he said.

Lalchand Oad, son of Herchand, expressed the fear that the accused was at large and might attempt to kill other members of his family. They had therefore left their village and came to Umerkot. His father was killed as a punishment for demanding his rightful share in the harvest, he said.

He said that elders of Oad and Bheel communities would meet on Thursday to decide future line of action and finalise decision to take out a big rally in protest against police failure to arrest the main accused.

The father of the accused Sain Bux Mangrio told the team that he was innocent. He was not present in the area that day and was attending a community meeting at that time, he claimed.

He said that he was informed by Herchand's neighbours that Herchand had lured his son to his house under a conspiracy where Loono and other youths of Oad community tied him up, subjected him to torture and also sexual assault, which might have compelled him to take such an extreme step.

If he was guilty he must be hanged, he added.

SPO Iqbal Mangrio, member of the investigation team formed by Umerkot DPO, told the team that they could not arrest the main accused because they were busy maintaining law and order in the town for two days and on Wednesday they kept waiting for the team.

He said that police had arrested co-accused Sain Bux Mangrio, father of the main accused, and also impounded their tractor and livestock.

SP (investigation) Gul Hassan Larik heads the investigation team and SIO Arif Bhatti is investigating officer of the case.