It was not exactly a whodunit. All the same, the manhunt for the five rapists of the Mumbai photojournalist took around 72 hours. Eighty police personnel — 20 teams — had to question as many people. And the field of the search extended from Mumbai to Delhi.
What made the task of the police difficult was that the accused were habitual offenders. Right after raping the woman, and despite threats to ensure her silence, they all switched off their cellphones.
The police had to dig deep into its informer network.
"We rounded up eight to ten persons who are regular offenders or drug addicts living in the area. But that did not prove fruitful. After the survivor's statement was recorded late on Thursday, we prepared sketches of the five accused," said an officer.
The sketches helped. Soon after they were circulated, it was learnt that two of the five had criminal records.
"We learnt Chand Abdul Sattar Shaikh had a case of theft registered against him at Agripada police station in 2011. Through our informers in the area, Shaikh was arrested from the Dhobi Ghat area at noon on Friday," said an officer from Agripada.
It provided the key break. Through Shaikh, police were able to establish the identities of the four other accused and a manhunt was launched to arrest them.
Teams were sent to Mumbra, Vashi, Diwa, Nalasopara, amongst other places in and around Mumbai.
Unit 3 of the Mumbai crime branch arrested the second man, Vijay Jadhav, from a video centre in Nagpada where he was watching a B-grade film. Jadhav has several cases of thefts against him at Tardeo police station.
Monitoring the houses of the friends and relatives of the two led to the arrest of Siraj Rehman Khan alias Siraj from Mumbra.
In the early hours of Sunday, the key accused, Mohamed Kasim Hafiz Shaikh alias Bangali, was nabbed from the sixth floor of Nair hospital.
The battle was won finally after the fifth and final accused, Mohammad Salim Ansari, was arrested from Ashok Vihar in Delhi, "on basis of technical surveillance," said the officer.