Outraged people on Tuesday burnt down the houses, in Imphal East district, of three persons who were arrested in connection with the murder of Satyabhama Ningombam, a research fellow in the Regional Institute of Medical Sciences here.

One of them, Biju Khetrimayum, reportedly confessed to have smothered her to death.

Director-General of Police Joykumar Yumnam said that while Biju and Jivan Thoudam, both of Irilbung, were nabbed late Monday, James Toijam of Thambalkhong was arrested on Tuesday morning.

Talking to journalists here, Manipur Home Minister Gaikhangam Golmei and the DGP said James had been chasing Satyabhama, concealing his status as a married man with two children. It is said they became very intimate but James wanted to avoid marrying Satyabhama, and asked his friend Biju to fix the problem. At 1 a.m on April 3, Biju lured her out of her house, assuring her that James was waiting and ready to elope with her. But Biju, who took Satyabhama on a two-wheeler, tried to rape her on reaching a secluded place. When she resisted, he smothered her with her shawl, and dumped the body in a dry drainage. It was on the basis of the statement of Biju, who is also a married man with children, that the police arrested Jivan.

On learning of the arrest of the two, James protested his innocence in a telephonic talk with Imphal West Superintendent of Police Jayenta Konsam. James, who was said to be hiding in Hyderabad, was, however, persuaded to come to Imphal and make a clean breast of it as people suspected that he was the main culprit. And soon after his arrival at Tulihal airport here, he was arrested. People had been agitated over the murder and a general strike was called.

However, it was suspended on Monday night following an assurance by Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh that the culprits would be arrested within three days.