“The Nepali people need to know the truth,” Paras Shah the former crown prince of Nepal tells the The New Paper of Singapore, March 31, 2009.
Prince Paras spoke exclusively to The New Paper over two days in the past fortnight, first at the Raffles Town Club and then at his River Valley condominium unit.
He still shivers as he recalls that night of terror, the New Paper writes further.
Paras: It was utter pandemonium. The mortally wounded were groaning, blood was splattered on the walls and floor. The survivors, including my wife, whimpered as they crouched, some hiding behind a sofa, as bullets ricocheted everywhere.
(As he spoke, Prince Paras’ face glistened with sweat. His orange juice stayed untouched throughout the three hour-long interview.)
Paras adds: For four years after that massacre, I was not able to sleep. Till today, the nightmare keeps coming back to haunt me.
After the turmoil of the dreadful incident, Prince Paras and a host of other witnesses told a commission of inquiry what they saw.
Over the years, the prince has had time to think and re-think about the events of that fateful night.
Only now are some of the pieces falling clearly into place, in his mind at least, he said.
Yet nothing seemed amiss that night as family members and relatives gathered for a party in the billiards room in Dipendra’s residence on the palace grounds. This was the custom on Friday nights.
There was no sense that their life of wealth and ease was about to change, that their world was about to come tumbling down.
At 8pm, there was the first hint of trouble, Prince Paras recalled.
Paras: I got there a bit late, but Dipendra was staggering around in the room, as if he were drunk, as he usually was. But on this occasion, he did not reek of alcohol. An hour or so later, just as the king was about to enter the room, Dipendra collapsed.
Looking back, I now realise he was pretending. His brother, Nirajan, and I carried him to his bedroom upstairs.
We placed him on the bed and tried to remove the Glock pistol from the holster on his left hip so that he would be more comfortable. But he suddenly woke up and told us to leave it alone.
Then, I noticed that his Colt M16 rifle was on the dressing table, outside the cupboard where it was usually kept. I did not make too much of it as he kept six or seven guns in his room. I left the room and rejoined the party.
The king was mingling with the older generation.
Suddenly, Dipendra charged into the room. He had changed into army camouflage. The M16 was slung on his shoulders, together with a shotgun.
His Glock pistol hung at his hip. He fired one burst into the ceiling with his Heckler & Koch MP5 sub-machine gun, then a burst at his father. His Majesty was hit by three bullets.
Dipendra then moved out of the room, presumably to protect the entrance.
I watched in great shock. I was not able to move for at least 30 seconds. Then I pulled myself together. The king’s younger sister was cradling him, his head in her lap.
Prince Paras paused as he reflected on the sequence of events. He recalled Prince Nirajan drawing his own pistol and laying it next to the king. He was the only other person in the room who was armed.
Then Prince Niranjan ran after his brother, who was outside.
Was Prince Niranjan offering the king his pistol to protect himself? Or did he want to confront his brother without further bloodshed?
Prince Paras continued: Two to three minutes later, shots rang out. Nirajan was later found with a shot in the back and two in the head. I suspect he was shot when he refused to support Dipendra in his bid to seize power.
The violence continued.
Dipendra walked back in, this time wielding the M16, said Prince Paras.
He walked up to his father and shot him in the head at point-blank range. There was no expression on his face as he kept his finger on the trigger.
After that, Dipendra went ‘berserk’, said Prince Paras. ‘He shot at everybody in the room, anybody who moved. He must have let fly a total of 75 rounds.
My mother took two shots in the shoulder and fell to the ground. Two other people fell on top of her, which was probably what saved her life. One of the bullets is lodged in her lung till today. Doctors say it’s too risky to extract it as it is close to her heart.
The king’s sister, Princess Shoba, who was cradling him in her lap, put up her hand to shield herself. She lost a few fingers and there were burn marks on her face. She toppled over but she survived.
The king’s younger brother was next to be gunned down.
Question: Where were you at this time?
Paras: We were crouching in the alcove and were fortunate not to be in the line of fire.
I pushed everybody, including my wife, my sister and my cousins, behind the sofas.
Then, a tinkling sound of bells outside the room caught Dipendra’s attention.
It was his mother hurrying past, the sound coming from the anklets she wore.
She could have been going up to Dipendra’s bedroom to get a weapon.
This is what I presumed happened next. Dipendra caught up with his mother at the top of the stairs and shot her. Her blood flowed down the stairs like a waterfall – it was still there long after her body was removed.
The silence after the frenzied gunshots was deafening. The floor of the billiards room was slippery, with blood everywhere.
The smell was horrible, that of burnt blood, the smell you get when people are shot at close range. Bodies were lying crumpled on the floor, people crying and asking for help.
Question: Where were the palace guards? Did they not hear the shots?
Paras: They probably did.
Were they afraid to intervene or did they think Dipendra was shooting for amusement, as he sometimes did, at flower pots, at lizards?
Paras: There were times when he and his father used to test guns in the palace before deciding which one to buy for the military. Whatever the reason, they did not intervene.
The silence was broken by one final single shot, followed by a grunting sound.
Prince Paras said he heard the sound coming from near the pond in the garden. It was the same grunt he heard later from Dipendra when he took him to the hospital.
That is why I believe he shot himself in the garden. The grunting sound was the same. It was like the groaning sound cats make at night.
Dipendra was discovered later with a single bullet wound in the head.
But Prince Paras, who was still inside, said his priority was to tend to the people inside and get them of the palace.
I telephoned the security people, who rushed the 14 injured, including the king and queen, to hospital. They broke a glass door to move the injured out.
The royal couple were already dead.
I took Dipendra and five other persons to hospital in a Landcruiser. He kept on making that grunting sound as he lay in the vehicle.