Over the past two weeks, Lakhani village in Maharashtra’s Bhandara district has turned into a key piece of realty on the political landscape. Intensive media reportage following the recovery of bodies of three minor girls, who had allegedly been raped, from inside a well has caught the attention of netas of various hues who have been flocking to the scene of crime with supporters in tow. It’s another matter that the vicinity turning into a stomping ground has potentially obliterated any evidences that may have been lying around, making the task of the already puzzled police force even tougher.
“We could have managed to lay our hands on vital clues from the scene of crime, had the police summoned us the very day the bodies were fished out. However, we were called nine days later. By then the area around the well and the entire crime scene was disturbed, thanks to the hundreds of people who followed every politician that came calling,” representatives of Forensic Science Laboratory, Nagpur, said.
MiD DAY has already reported in great detail on February 28 (‘Will truth be buried under botched forensic investigation?’) and yesterday (‘Forensic tests fail to prove sexual assault’) about the slapdash ways of the local police and civil hospital in conducting the initial investigation. Here’s another little nugget to add to that list of shame: after the corpses were found on February 16, cops went to a nearby farmhouse, acquired a bedsheet, wrapped the bodies with it, and transported them to Bhandara General Hospital for post-mortem. This piece of cloth was never sent for forensic tests.
“Had the crime scene been protected, we could have collected exhibits from in and around the well and also the 10X10 room close by. This could have helped us ascertain whether or not the girls were killed somewhere else and then the bodies dumped in the well,” said a forensic expert. Special Inspector General of police (Nagpur Range) Rajendra Singh said, “Since the forensic reports have come out negative, we will ask the doctors who conducted the autopsy to determine the actual cause of death.
We are already seeking second opinion from forensic experts at Government Medical College, Nagpur. And if the need arises, we will reconsider our decision of exhuming the bodies – luckily, they have been buried and not cremated.” When asked how the doctors who conducted the autopsy established that the victims were raped, a police officer, on condition of anonymity, said, “They had used the finger-test method to confirm whether the hymens were intact or not.”
Meanwhile, superintendent of police Aarti Singh informed MiD DAY that 10 police teams have been constituted, and officers from Wardha, Gondhiya and Nagpur have been roped in to investigate the case. “We have detained twenty suspects, of which five are outsiders and are being questioned at present. Prima facie we suspect that the motive behind the killing could be property dispute, revenge or black magic. There’s also a possibility that the crime was committed by someone mentally unstable. Some members of the victims’ family are also not above suspicion.”
When asked about the forensic findings, Singh added, “The reports have thrown no light on the cause of fatality. We suspect that the deaths occurred two hours after the girls had had their last meal. Since the victims’ earrings were found intact, robbery has been ruled out. Also, though viscera results do not indicate rape, we cannot rule out the possibility at this stage.”
Police are also keen on sending the forensic findings to All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi to get another opinion. Meanwhile, following the exposé by this newspaper, BJP MLA from Nagpur Devendra Fadnavis said, “I have written a letter to state home minister RR Patil, referring to MiD DAY’s findings. I have asked him to ensure that another post-mortem is done and the shoddy investigations of the police are looked into.”