Anuj Bidve Salford shooting 'sounded like firecracker'

Kiaran Stapleton Kiaran Stapleton has admitted killing Anuj Bidve but denies murder

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A friend of Indian student Anuj Bidve has told a court he saw him fall to the ground after hearing a bang which he initially thought was a firecracker.

The 23-year-old was shot in the head at close range as he walked on Ordsall Lane, Salford, on 26 December 2011.

Kiaran Stapleton, 21, of Regent Square, Ordsall, admits manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility but denies murder.

Manchester Crown Court heard from Mr Bidve's friend Nitish Jalali, 22.

Mr Jalali was one of a group of friends, including Mr Bidve, who were walking from a hotel in Salford where they were staying for Christmas to the sales in Manchester city centre in the early hours of Boxing Day.

He told the court he felt anxious when a man wearing a white hooded top walked towards them.

'Sarcastic laugh'

"He came over and he asked what the time is and we did not respond the first time," he told the jury.

He said after the third time, someone answered and told him 1.30am and he pulled out a gun and fired it at Mr Bidve's head.

"There was a bang sound, it sounded like a firecracker," he added.

"Then Anuj fell flat, face-first."

A van believed to be carrying Kiaran Stapleton arrives in court The trial is taking place at Manchester Crown Court

He said the man then turned and ran off, giving a sarcastic laugh as he went.

Mr Jalali said he then saw the gunman run off with another male who stayed on the opposite side of the road throughout the incident.

A second witness, Sarang Kulkarni, said he saw the man in the hooded top laughing as he stood behind Mr Bidve, who was on the ground.

He said he thought the gunman was playing a prank because he saw him laughing.

Mr Kulkarni said the group arrived at the Etap Hotel in Salford on Christmas Eve and had gone to bed early on Christmas Day.

The women in the group woke the men in the early hours because they wanted to get a place in the queues for the Boxing Day sales in the city centre.

He said: "We did not really want to go but the girls wanted to and we did not want for them to go alone so we decided to go together."

'All surprised'

They left the hotel at 00:30 GMT on Boxing Day and followed their route via GPS from a phone of one of the group.

Anuj Bidve Anuj Bidve was shot while on a trip with friends to the Boxing Day sales in Manchester

He said when the two men approached them, one of them came over and asked the time.

"I said it was 1.30am and at that very moment I heard a loud bang like a small firecracker," he said.

"I looked back over my left shoulder and I saw one of the girls screaming and running towards me. She had her hands over her ears.

"The rest of the group was just running away from the scene of the incident but at the same time we were all surprised because we had not expected anything."

Mr Kulkarni said the group probably made a joint decision not to engage with the man at first, but said he felt relieved when it appeared he only wanted to know the time.

A third friend, Sourav Mukherjee, said he held Mr Bidve after he fell to the ground.

He said: "I saw a spark near Anuj's head and I heard a shot but I could not see a firearm so I thought it was a cracker," he said.

One of the girls in the group, Preetika Singh, told the court how after the shot was fired she saw a "smirky smile" on the gunman's face.

She said someone said "girls run", and they ran but then turned back to help Mr Bidve and call the police.

Mr Bidve was studying for a micro-electronics postgraduate qualification at Lancaster University after arriving in the UK last September.

His parents, Subhash and Yogini Bidve, have flown from their home in Pune, India, to attend the trial.

The trial continues.

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