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Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

Police discover body of Indian student at the centre of Reddit witch-hunt

Police have reportedly found the body of the university student from India who was wrongly accused of being the Boston Marathon bomber last week.

Sunil Tripathi, 22 and a student at the prestigious Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, had been missing since the 16th of March.

Soon after the bombing in Boston, which left four people dead and 174 injured, users of the social news site Redditt identified Tripathi as one of the bombers.

The body was discovered on Tuesday evening around 6pm in the Providence river near the Wyndham Garden Providence Hotel, but it is not yet known when Tripathi died.

The hotel is a little over a mile from Tripathi's apartment where he was last seen on March 16.  His cell phone and wallet were left in his apartment.  

The discovery of the body comes a day after the Reddit moderator who mistakenly identified Tripathi as the second Boston bomber, apologized to the students' family.

'I'd like to extend the deepest apologies to the family of Sunil Tripathi for any part we may have had in relaying what has turned out to be faulty information,' the moderator said in a statement.

'We cannot begin to know what you're going through and for that we are truly sorry.

'Several users, twitter users, and other sources had heard him identified as the suspect and believed it to be confirmed. We were mistaken.'

Erik Martin, the general manager of Reddit, also apologized for his site's role in the spreading of "this false ideal about Sunil".

Soon after his disappearance in March, Tripathi's family - aware that he had been suffering from depression - had raised the alarm, organizing searches and setting up a Facebook page and releasing a YouTube vide asking him to come home.

It is believed that one of Tripathi's fellow students from high school had wrongly identified him in a picture released of the bombers.

Born and raised in Pennsylvania to Indian parents, Sunil had followed his brother Ravi and sister Sangeeta to the Ivy League Brown University where he was studying philosophy.  

He was described as a "well-liked student" who loved chess and playing the saxophone.  

Early last year, Tripathi received permission to take a break from his studies after suffering from a bout of depression.

Precisely how Sunil Tripathi went from being the subject of a missing person’s search by a loving family to someone supposedly wanted by thousands of police and SWAT team officers remains unclear.

But it appears that speculation started on the social news site Reddit.

Several of those in the US who claimed on the forum last Thursday evening local time that he was the man wanted by police, said his name had come up in conversations between officers on the police scanner.

With the story taking hold like wildfire, a number of people then went on to celebrate how social media had apparently found the suspect in the “white hat”.

It was, said some, a victory for new media over the old school.

All chose to ignore the fact that police had not named Mr Tripathi as a suspect. They also ignored the fact that he looked very little like the man being hunted by officers.

A forensic account of events by TheAtlantic.com website shows that not only had the internet sleuths failed to identify the suspect, they had also not bothered to check the source of the claim.

Within hours, vile messages began cropping up on Sunil's Facebook page and about a dozen news vans camped outside the family's home in Radnor, Pennsylvania.

The true suspects, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his 26-year-old brother Tamerlan, were identified hours after police released their photos on Thursday evening.

Tamerlan was shot in an altercation with police early Friday morning but actually only died when his brother ran over him in the getaway car.

Dzhokhar was captured by police Friday evening and remains in FBI custody.

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