Eight men were arrested on Monday on suspicion of involvement in the brutal rape and murder of a mentally challenged Nepalese woman in Rohtak and a ninth suspect committed suicide even as an official acknowledged that timely action by the local police on her sister's report, after she went missing on February 1, could possibly have saved her life.
Announcing the first breakthrough in the case, director general of police Yashpal Singhal said police had arrested eight of the nine men allegedly involved in the gang-rape of the 28-year-old woman. One of them was identified as Santosh, a man of Nepali origin who worked at a shop owned by another of the accused.
Late on Monday evening, the ninth accused Sombir Kumar (22), who used to work at a factory in the village, committed suicide by consuming celphos tablet.
A police official who was part of the probe said on condition of anonymity that policemen in Rohtak should have responded promptly to the woman's sister's complaint, which was made three days before her body was found in a field along a highway with stones and blades inside.
Police became suspicious about nine men from Gaddhi Kheri village who were in touch with each other on February 1 after studying details of mobile phone calls in the area. "Upon being questioned after they were rounded up, the suspects revealed that they had taken turns with the victim at 7pm on February 1 at an abandoned room in the fields of one Ram Niwas, one kilometre from where her body was found," the official said.
In the face of strong criticism of its handling of the case, police said action would be taken against personnel found responsible for any lapses in the investigation. "If any lapse on the part of police officials is found, action will be taken as per law against them," Singhal said.
Singhal, who visited the crime scene before addressing a news conference with inspector general of police (Rohtak range) Alok Roy, said the arrested men took turns raping the hapless woman. An autopsy had established that her private parts were torn by the ferocity of the assault.
The other accused were identified as Sombit, Rajesh Kumar alias Ghuchru, Sunil Kumar alias Shilla, Sarwar alias Billu, Manbir, Sunil alias Maddha, Pawan and Parmod alias Padam. The arrested men, aged between 18 and 37, belonged to Gaddi Kheri village, located six kilometers from Rohtak.
The victim was first spotted by Sunil Kumar at 7pm on February 1. He allegedly overpowered her and took her to a desolate place and then called his friends. Santosh was an employee in Sunil Kumar's shop.
The accused bought contraceptive from a shop at around midnight, police officials said. After raping the woman, they killed her with a sharp weapon. Police identified Rajesh Kumar as the man who allegedly inserted objects into the woman's private parts.
The victim was living with her sister at Chinyot Colony in Rohtak while undergoing treatment at a hospital. Three days after she was reported missing, her mutilated body was found in a field. An autopsy confirmed rape and multiple injuries to the head, chest and thighs.
The autopsy report stated that blades and stones had been shoved into the body, said doctors of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (PGIMS) in Rohtak. Dr S K Dhattarwal, who led the team that performed the autopsy, said the woman was attacked so brutally that her intestines were damaged.
Singhal said police believed some more persons could have been involved in the crime. "Based on human intelligence and cyber-intelligence probed by DSP Amit Bhatia and CIA-1 in-charge Manoj Verma, we could soon solve the case," he said.
Asked how the victim reached Bahu Akbarpur village, where her body was found at a spot 18 km from her home in Rohtak, police said their investigation had revealed that she “voluntary” left her sister's residence.
On Monday, police enhanced the reward for information about persons who attacked the woman from Rs1 lakh to Rs5 lakh.
The woman’s case evoked memories of the fatal gang-rape of a student on a bus in New Delhi in 2012. That incident had sparked a massive public outcry and tougher laws to deter rapists.
The opposition Congress used the crime to target the BJP government in Haryana for its handling of law and order, with party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala saying it was "yet to wake up from its slumber". The Congress demanded the formation of a new special investigation team under an inspector general of police to probe the gang-rape.
Surjewala noted that while the BJP government had spent lakhs of rupees on its 'Beti Bachao Yojana', Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and his ministers had not found the time to visit the victim's family.