Crackdown on gutka sale leads to serial rapist in Chennai
What started as a crackdown on a shopkeeper for selling a banned product, chewing tobacco (gutka) in Chennai, and an examination of his phone to trace his source of supply took a horrific turn after the police discovered that he was an alleged serial rapist of minors, and had actually saved video clips of the assaults.
In all, police have discovered that he was involved in five rapes; worse, in two cases, the mothers of the girls were complicit in the rapes.
By Monday, the five girls, aged 4,9,11,13 and 15 were rescued and sent to a government-run home for children. The accused, A Perumal and the mothers of two of the girls who connived with him have been jailed under sections of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 and section 376 (rape) of the IPC and Information Technology Act.
On Saturday, the police received a tip-off that Perumal was selling gutka. Sure enough, a raid turned up 30 packets of the banned product. But the police wanted to also apprehend the dealer supplying to him but he resisted handing over his phone. “We grew suspicious and thought the phone had details of a godown where gutka is stacked,” said inspector E Rajeshwari. The police eventually seized two mobile phones, including an iPhone, from Perumal. That’s when the bigger crime began to unravel.
“My head was spinning,” the officer said. “There were so many videos--some he had recorded with these five girls and a lot, he had downloaded from the internet.” The police confirmed that the videos which he downloaded were adult pornography and didn’t involve children. His phones have been sent to a special team to analyse if he shared the videos of the children he had filmed.
Deputy commissioner R Karthikeyan said they are yet to ascertain if this has been going on for months or years. “There is a lot of obscene content on his phone. Only after forensic examination and gathering more evidence can we come to a conclusion,” the officer said.
Police said that the two mothers arrested are sisters who are also seen in the videos engaging in sexual acts with the 48-year-old man. “The crime has happened with the children at their own homes with the mothers’ knowledge,” said an investigating officer who asked not to be named.
Once the videos were discovered, the police set out to find the victims. It isn’t clear how they did this, but the first child they found was a 9-year-old who led them to the remaining girls. “She said one of them was her cousin sister and the other three were their friends.” The parents of the other three girls didn’t know what had happened to their daughters and had left them with the two accused women when they went to work, said the police. “The children had not complained before but now when we are questioning them they are opening up,” added the officer.
Police said that money was behind the involvement of the mothers in trafficking and sexual assault. Each time, Perumal paid each of the two mothers between ₹1,000 and ₹2,000. “The fathers brought no income. These women did odd household jobs and said they were struggling to eat even one meal,” said the police. The other three girls are also from poor families and police said that they will remain in the government home until investigations are complete.
“These two mothers without any hesitation agreed to send their daughters in exchange for money,” Karthikeyan said. “Had we not checked his phone, this would never have come to light.”
Perumal’s wife and two adult children were also unaware of his behaviour, police said. They are now investigating whether there are more victims.