9-year-old girl found dead in Mumbai toilet, cops suspect rape; 1 held
Two days after a nine-year-old girl disappeared from Nehru Nagar, the police found her body in a local public washroom on Saturday.
Thirty-five-year-old Devendra Gundappa, who has a previous conviction for committing a sexual offence against a minor, has been arrested for allegedly raping and murdering the girl before dumping her body. A case has been registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and sections 302 (murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence) and 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The girl, who lived in a chawl in Nehru Nagar with her family, disappeared after being sent on an errand on April 4. “She had come back from school and was sent to buy tea. She never came back. We had been searching for her since then,” said the nine-year-old’s mother.
Among those who helped the family look for the girl was Gundappa. “Now we understand that he could have been misleading us,” said the girl’s uncle. Gundappa had come out of jail in 2017, after being convicted for committing a sexual offence against a minor. He had since remarried and was living in Nehru Nagar.
The police brought Gundappa in for questioning on Friday evening and interrogated him overnight. “We brought him to the police station on Friday evening for questioning as we suspected his role. In the morning he told us about the location where he had dumped the body after which we retrieved it and sent it for post mortem,” said a police officer.
According to the police, Gundappa had taken the girl to an empty room near his home in Nehru Nagar where he raped and strangled her to death. He then dumped her body in a gutter in a public washroom and covered it with a slab, where the police found it around 10am, on Saturday morning.
After the body was recovered, it was sent to Cooper Post Mortem Centre. A forensic expert from the centre said, “Due to the body being decomposed, we couldn’t identify any external injuries on the body and the only evident internal injury was skull fracture, which is likely to have caused the death. We have also sent swab samples for chemical analysis to check for sexual offence.” The body was handed over to the girl’s family on Saturday evening.
A large crowd gathered outside Juhu police station on Saturday afternoon, demanding justice for the girl. They dispersed only after repeated assurances from the police that Gundappa was not being treated leniently in custody.
Additional commissioner of police Manoj Kumar Sharma promised the crowd that a watertight charge sheet would be filed against him.