A 16-year-old boy accused of two murders, two attempted murders and a string of robberies in Kalyan earlier this year was among three boys who escaped from the Bhiwandi children observation home last Monday. The state women and child development department has started an investigation into alleged negligence by staff that led to the escape. Three boys, detained in separate cases of rape, murder and robbery, escaped on the night of October 3. According to police, the inmates had got into a fight with each other, which was broken up by the caretaker.
“After pacifying the boys, the caretaker says he took his eyes off them for a few minutes, during which time, they jumped off the terrace of the building and fled,” said R D Shinde, senior inspector, Shanti Nagar police station. Among the three who escaped, one was caught for theft earlier this year and another for the rape of a minor girl. The police said the third boy was part of a gang blamed for two murders and two attempted murders in Kalyan within a week in April. Their victims were 22-year-old mechanical engineer Pruia Darwade, who was killed in her home, and Deepak Bhoir, a watchman murdered at a construction site, the police said.
The Thane Police crime branch eventually caught the four-member gang on April 20 and seized Rs 1.6 lakh in cash and valuables from them. Even after a medical test determined that the boy was a minor, the police pleaded before court to have him tried as an adult, taking into consideration the gravity of the crimes. While police are looking for the boys, an inquiry into lapses by staff at the remand home has begun. “We have initiated an inquiry into the escape of the minors. We will submit our report next week,” said Ajay Fadol, women and child development officer, Thane District.
Inspector Shinde added, “We have alerted all police stations where cases were registered against the juveniles. We have been visiting their homes and talking to their families and are keeping tabs on movements of their fellow accused.” Police said the incident occurred when there was a scuffle between some minors from the Children in Need of Care and Protection section. “There are over 60 children in the Bhiwandi home both juveniles in conflict with law and those in need of care and protection but only one caretaker on duty at one time. The caretaker had entered the room to stop the other children from fighting, when the three juvenile offenders saw an opportunity. They came out of the room and locked it from outside and escaped,” said an official.
After an earlier escape attempt, a police official was also stationed at the home along with the caretaker. Both were in the room when the boys escaped, the official said. In September, another juvenile offender had escaped. A source said though requests had been sent to district authorities to increase staff, there was only one caretaker on duty at any given time.