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Rape that shamed Delhi

delhi Updated: Jan 17, 2010 23:32 IST
Vijaita Singh
Vijaita Singh
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Punjabi looking.
Coming from a gym.
Wet hair.
Fresh deodorant.
Well-read.
I have AIDS.
Small Zippo-lighter.
Related to Hindi films.
Flawless English.
Calls cigarette a fag.

These are the jottings made seven years ago by a Delhi Police investigator, who still carries his case diary with him.

This is his hope: To find a rapist who traumatised a 28-year-old Swiss diplomat, shamed India and set off one of this city’s largest manhunts.

The officer, one of the first investigators of a case that set India’s violent, female-unfriendly Capital on edge, requested us not to use his name.

If he appears haunted by the case, it is with good reason: the woman wasbundled into her own car outside an international film festival, a brazenness that his department and the city could not live down for months.

“A city which can't provide safety to its citizens is a failed city,” said an HT editorial on October 17, 2003.

The officer is one of several still on the trail of the suspect. Based on those initial notes the investigator made in his diary, more than 4,000 men were interrogated over two years. The police swept homes, pubs, discotheques — even hospitals, after the rapist claimed he had AIDS.

“We checked the medical records of all the hospitals and grilled all the people in the age group of 20-35 who were HIV positive,” said a former senior investigator, requesting anonymity. “That too did not bear any fruit.”

The traumatised diplomat flew home two days after the rape on the evening of October 15, 2003, after being snatched from the parking lot of tony, supposedly safe South Delhi’s Siri Fort Auditorium.

The police e-mailed her photographs of suspects, mixing them with others “so it did not appear that we were leading her”, said Vivek Gogia, deputy commissioner of police at the time.

THE BRAZEN SNATCH

The woman, attractive and slim, emerged from a Russian film — part of the 34th International Film Festival — and was walking towards her car in the darkened parking lot when the suspect and three of his friends spotted her.

They were lounging in a Maruti Zen, drinking. The suspect and a friend got out, followed her and quickly forced the now-terrified woman into her own car.

“While one of them drove, the other raped the hapless woman,” said the investigator. “It all happened in a matter of 20 minutes. She was dumped near IIT Gate, 5 km away, while the accused fled.”

The rapist was a calm man.

“After raping her, the man rummaged through her purse, found her identity card and learnt that she was a Swiss diplomat,” HT reported on October 17, 2003. “The rapist then spoke to her at length about Switzerland. He even forced the diplomat to disclose the PIN (personal identification number) of her international credit card. He took the credit card and her diamond ring.”

The tormented victim called the Swiss Embassy, which called in the Delhi Police. A medical examination at the All India institute of Medical Sciences the same day confirmed rape.

Around 400 suspects matched the description provided by the diplomat:

n He wasn’t wearing a vest under his shirt.

n He had “clean teeth”, she said.

She left India 10 days after the rape. The police called her and dropped emails, but she didn’t want to be associated with the investigation any more.

This is what she told an officer who called her: Go ahead and catch him if you can. I’m not coming back to India.

A REWARD AND A SUSPECT

Two days after the rape was reported, police declared a reward of Rs 4 lakh for leads that led to the rapist’s arrest.

Two years later, based on the description provided by the woman and an anonymous tipoff, the police moved in on a south-Delhi man who lived in a farmhouse.

But the suspect’s DNA did not match the rapist’s, whose semen was found on the victim’s clothes.

They were other blind alleys. People often called in false leads to settle scores.

Investigators analysed millions of phone calls and mobile phones active in the area between 10 pm and 12 midnight on the day of the rape.

Nothing.

Sketches made on the victim’s description were sent to 123 police stations.

Nothing.

They questioned inmates of the city’s largest jail, Tihar, listening for relevant whispers.

Nothing.

Teams of officers questioned the diplomat’s colleagues and neighbours: She stayed alone in an apartment in the quiet, leafy and rich neighbourhood of West End in South Delhi.

Nothing.

The police say they are still on the job, matching the Siri Fort’s rapist’s profile to any alleged rapist they might pick up.

More than evidence, clues or investigation, there is only one thing alone that now drives the investigator with the diary: Hope.