Over two months after two engineering students from the Sinhgad Institute of Technology, Lonavala, were found brutally murdered in the forest area near Bhushi Dam, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Pune Rural Police claimed to have made a breakthrough on Sunday, by identifying two suspects and arresting one of them. Police said initial probe has revealed that the murder was a fallout of a robbery bid.
The dead bodies of the 22-year-old boy, a final year mechanical engineering student from the institute, and the 21-year-old girl, who was in the final year computer engineering, were found, with their clothes stripped off, on the afternoon of April 3 in the forest area between INS Shivaji and Air Force Station in Lonavala. Both their bodies had severe injuries and the post-mortem report had said that the two had died due to severe blows of a blunt object on the head. After the murder came to light, the Pune Rural Police formed eight teams comprising 15 officers to probe the case.
In the first week of May, Superintendent of Police (Pune Rural) Mohammed Suvez Haque had announced the formation of an SIT to probe into the case, and a dedicated staff of 25 policemen and seven officers was assigned the investigation. A reward of Rs 50,000 was also announced in exchange for any information on the suspects. Senior officers, including Special Inspector General (Kolhapur Range) Vishwas Nangre Patil and Haque, were monitoring the case on a daily basis.
Speaking to Newsline on Sunday, Nangre Patil said, “Based on the information developed professionally, one person has been arrested, while one more has been identified. As the second person is yet to be arrested, we are choosing not to divulge the names and other details. But, I can say that the arrested suspect had been booked in the past for petty offences of theft. More details about the sequence of events leading to the incident will be shared after the arrest of the second suspect, which, we believe, will happen very soon.”
Another police officer added that the victims had come to the area on the boy’s bike for an outing, a day before the incident, and are believed to have been attacked by the two suspects with an intention of the robbery.
“At this stage, we believe that the suspects may have murdered the duo as they raised an alarm. Though the post-mortem examination of the girl did not point to any sexual assault, a possibility of an attempt to sexually assault her cannot be ruled out,” the officer added.
As part of the probe, the police said they have quizzed over 1,500 people, including those with a criminal record. An analysis of the data of over one lakh phone calls was also done, which helped in zeroing in on the culprits.
“We had prepared a comprehensive list of suspects in the beginning. The person arrested was on the list since day one. Our teams have questioned him three times, but we could not get a breakthrough. The fourth time, however, we could crack him. He was in the police records and had been booked for petty thefts in the past,” said Nangre Patil.