AMONG the reasons, which led to the trial in the Nayana Pujari gang-rape and murder case stretching on for over seven years, was the escape of prime accused Yogesh Raut from police custody in 2011. On September 17 that year, Raut fled from Sassoon hospital, where he had been brought from Yerawada jail, after he complained of severe itching and stomach ache.
One of the reasons the men responsible for the heinous crime were eventually convicted and sentenced to death was because the Pune City Crime Branch managed to re-arrest Raut in 2013. The arrest was carried out by a team led by Senior Inspector Satish Govekar, which spent days probing leads to track down Raut.
Raut had, in the interim period, taken on a new identity. He called himself Ravi Ashok Bhalla and was working at a laundry shop in Delhi’s Trilokpuri area. He even had a fake PAN card and driving license. The Crime Branch team managed to nab him while Raut was visiting Shirdi in the last week of May 2013. It was later revealed that Raut had visited Pune a few times between his escape and re-arrest.
After escaping from the hospital, Raut had first gone to Hadapsar, where he stayed for some time. He later went to Surat and stayed with an acquaintance, before fleeing to Delhi, where he lived at the railway station for a while.
Raut tried to look for a job in Delhi, but could not find one as he had no identity proof. He then moved to Amritsar, where he managed to get a driving license under the name of Ravi Bhalla, and worked at a dhaba under his new identity. He later returned to Delhi to work at a laundry shop and even managed to get a PAN card.
Speaking to Pune Newsline on Tuesday, Senior Inspector Govekar, who is now in charge of Kondhwa police station, said, “We had no technical leads as such… cell phone records or bank account details. Our efforts to find him were based on pure human intelligence. Our team was stationed in Delhi for over 15 days before we could finally find him and ascertain his identity. Crucial tip-offs about his location were also received from the informants of constables Santosh Jagtap and Pradeep Surve”.
Police had said that Raut visited his family — comprising his wife, daughter, mother and brother — a few times in one-and-a-half years, in spite of the fact that his residence in Pune was under the constant watch of police during this time. Raut is also facing a trial in the case registered after his escape.