updated 3/2/2007 11:17:05 AM ET 2007-03-02T16:17:05

An Indian servant confessed to killing and sexually assaulting at least 19 children and women and stuffing their dismembered remains into a storm drain outside the house where he worked, officials said Friday.

The killings in a well-to-do section of Noida, a New Delhi suburb, prompted outrage after relatives of the victims said police had ignored their complaints as up to 38 people went missing over two years. Nearly all victims were from poor families working as servants in the area.

The suspect, Surender Koli, was a servant at a house in Noida. He and the home’s owner were arrested in December as police began unearthing the remains of 19 children and women from storm drains abutting the property.

Koli confessed to the killings during a closed court hearing on Thursday, said R.K. Gaur, a spokesman for India’s Central Bureau of Investigation. Gaur refused to provide additional details, saying they were “between the state and the accused.”

However, an Indian official with knowledge of the investigation said Koli confessed to sexually assaulting victims before killing them. Koli also admitted sexually abusing some of the corpses before disposing them, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the confession is supposed to remain sealed until the trial.

Others missing?
The official said Koli confessed to killing all 19 people whose remains have been found, but could not say whether he provided any information about the other 19 missing women and children.

The official said Koli did not mention his employer, Moninder Singh Pandher, in his confession.

The Press Trust of India news agency reported that a court on Friday ordered Pandher held for another 14 days.

Koli had earlier confessed to police that he killed 10 children and five women. But unlike Thursday’s confession, which was made under oath before a judge, the earlier confession is not admissible in court under Indian law.

If convicted of the killings, Koli could face the death penalty.

News of the killings first emerged in late December, and police quickly took credit for nabbing the suspects.

But residents of the area said the police had routinely ignored reports of missing people and had been forced to start investigating when the smell from the drains became overpowering and human remains were spotted flowing in them.

Six police officers have since been fired and three senior officers were suspended for mishandling the case, which has been taken over by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation.

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