Ashfak Sheikh,an accused in the July 31 gangrape case of a girl from Bhandup at Shakti Mills,fled the city immediately after the gangrape of the photojournalist was reported on August 22,the police said.
Officials added that though he was not involved in the August 22 case,his name cropped up during the course of investigation.
After the first accused,a minor,was arrested by the N M Joshi Marg police for the gangrape of the photojournalist,he revealed several names during interrogation. This list included Qasim Sheikh alias Bangali,Vijay Jadhav,Salim Ansari and Sheikh alias Prince.
The police later realised that Sheikh was not involved in the case. On re-interrogation,the minor revealed Siraj Khans name. While the police arrested Bangali,Ansari,Jadhav and Khan,Sheikhs name was struck off as it was found to be an attempt by the accused to mislead the police.
After the July 31 case was reported to the N M Joshi Marg police,the accused arrested in the case,also a minor,identified Sheikh as a co-accused in the case. The other accused in the case,Bangali,Jadhav and Ansari,also confirmed his involvement. A fresh manhunt for Sheikh was launched after this. However,Sheikh was already absconding,the police said.
Vinayak Deshmukh,Deputy Commissioner of Police (zone III),confirmed that Sheikh,who is wanted in the July 31 gangrape case,is the same person who was earlier suspected to be involved in the rape of the photojournalist. According to the information that we have,he left the city on August 23, Deshmukh said.
However,an officer with the Mumbai Police Crime Branch said,Our investigation revealed that Sheikh was last present in the city on August 25. His cellphone locations have consistently been tracked to Surat and Hyderabad after that.
Eight days after a case was registered in the July 31 case,Sheikh is still at large. To trace him,police teams have so far visited Surat,Hyderabad and Bihar.
Police said the victim,who worked as a telephone operator,said in her statement that her boyfriend and she were passing the entrance to the Shakti Mills Compound when they were forced inside it by the accused. While her boyfriend was allegedly assaulted,the girl was gangraped. They fled the city after that only to return a month later to approach the police.