The Navi Mumbai Police have launched a manhunt for two men suspected of being involved in nine cases of molesting minor girls. The police have released pictures of the suspects and announced a reward of Rs 25,000 for information leading to their arrest. According to the police, between August and September-end, the two men allegedly sexually assaulted minor girls in Vashi, Sanpada, Belapur, Kharghar, Koparkhairane and the APMC market area. “Both of them have been operating separately for two months. Apart from Navi Mumbai, we know the two also have cases registered against them in Mumbai, Thane and Thane Rural,” said Tushar Doshi, deputy commissioner of police (Crime).
Officers investigating cases against the duo in Navi Mumbai said one of them — captured in CCTV cameras wearing a blue shirt — targets children aged between 14 and 16 years. The suspects, the police said, roam around middle-class neighbourhoods in Navi Mumbai, gathering information about the girls they want to target. “They find out the names of their family members, who works where and what time they leave from home,” said Bharat Kamble, senior inspector, Koparkhairane police station. The suspect in the blue shirt, said Kamble, then approaches the girl’s home when she is alone (usually late in the afternoon ) and asks her to accompany him as her father has sent him to bring her.
“The victims usually trust them and agree to accompany them because the suspects know the names of their fathers,” said Kamble. He added that the man then takes the girl to an isolated spot nearby and allegedly molests her, before fleeing. The police have noticed that the other suspect, a young man wearing a red shirt, targets girls aged 8 to 10 years. Kamble added that the suspect poses as a salesman with a gas cylinder company. Sub-Inspector Amol More of Koparkhairaine police station said that both of them find an isolated space a few hundred metres away from the victims’ homes. “The suspect either touches the girls inappropriately or undresses them,” said More.
Police said the hunt for the duo has been complicated as they have found no distinctive features about either man. “We are looking for men aged between 25 and 30 years. The problem is they look completely ordinary and there are too many men matching that description. We have been looking for men with similar hairstyles, facial features, body language, gait and footwear. We have also been asking the girls whether they used any unusual words or had an accent,” said an officer in Vashi, who is also investigating the cases.
Since August, the officer added, dozens of men matching the description of the suspects have been detained at various police stations, only to be released later. “We have shown several men to the girls but no one has identified them. We are looking at old records to try and identify the men,” said Inspector Mohan Patil of CBD Belapur police station. The last time a string of child molestation incidents was reported in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region was in 2014 when one-eyed Ayaz Ansari was alleged to have sexually assaulted 13 minor girls all over Mumbai. Andheri resident Ansari has been convicted in two of those cases so far.
Sudhakar Pathare, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Zone I, in whose jurisdiction all the cases are registered, said the pictures and a description of the suspects have been released in the hope that people will inform the police on spotting them. “The men are perverts targeting young girls. We have announced a reward of Rs 25,000 for the arrest of the men,” he said.
Another officer in Navi Mumbai, who is tracking the suspects, said the men have gone quiet since the last incident two weeks ago. “They struck at a lot of places in a short span and seem to have disappeared since then. Every cop in Navi Mumbai is looking for the suspects and we are just waiting for them to make one mistake,” he said.